By Dipo Olowookere
There are strong indications that the Federal Government may set aside the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) regarding the 41 items exempted from foreign exchange market in its newly released 2017 Fiscal Policy Roadmap.
The policy document prepared by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, will, instead, come up with fiscal measures to reduce pressure in the parallel market.
According to the document, the FG “will replace administrative measures on list of 41-items with fiscal measures to reduce demand pressure in parallel market.”
Presenting the document at a programme held in Lagos, Mrs Adeosun said, “The Federal Government’s Fiscal Roadmap is addressing barriers to growth that will drive productivity, generate jobs and broaden wealth-creating opportunities to achieve inclusive growth.”
She stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was determined to return Nigeria to a productive economy rather than one steeped in consumption. To do so, government would tackle the infrastructure deficit to unlock productivity, improve business competitiveness and create employment.
She further said that government would actively partner with the private sector to achieve this by use of a number of new funding platforms, including the Road Trust Fund, which would develop potentially tollable roads, and the Family Homes Fund, which is an ongoing PPP initiative for funding of affordable housing.
According to the minister, the tax provision that allows companies to receive tax relief for investment in roads on a collective basis would be reviewed.
She explained that the existing provision that enabled companies to claim relief for road projects had only been taken advantage of by two companies, Lafarge and Dangote Cement. This was because few companies were large enough to fund roads alone.
The revision would now allow collective tax relief, such that companies will be able to jointly fund roads, subject to approval by FIRS and the Ministry of Works, and share the tax credit. It added that the government would revitalise refineries and increase Diaspora remittances through participation in the buyer support scheme for the Family Homes Fund with a view to increasing the supply of US Dollars to the Nigerian market.
The Roadmap also provides for a fresh audit of the federal government debt profile after which it would introduce a promissory note program to finance verified liabilities and issue debt certificates to contractors of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
These, according to the document, would positively impact on the economy by improving government’s cash flow of businesses, improve banks’ Non-Performing Loans, (NPLs); free up banks’ balance sheet for lending to private sector; and improve business interaction. These liabilities were estimated to be N2.2 trillion and would be addressed with a 10 year Promissory Note Issuance programme in conjunction with the CBN.
“Some contractors had not been paid in the past 4 years and in some cases the banks they were owing refused them access to the funds released, causing delays,” she explained, adding that those receiving the Promissory Notes would be expected to provide a material discount to government. The issuance was a solution to a long term problem that was ‘a drag on economic activity’.
It would also mobilise private capital to complement government spending on infrastructure, through the Roads Trust Fund, Family Homes Fund, while extending infrastructure tax relief to a collective model to attract clusters of corporate entities and expand the provision of infrastructure, in other to drive growth of non-oil sector, especially and the economy in general. There would be incentives for exports which would include restructuring the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) to a tax credit system, as well as rationalised tariffs and waivers in key export sectors. These have been designed to drive import substitution. The document indicated that the federal government would encourage investment in specific sectors through fiscal incentives especially in food processing, mining and power, and would rationalise tariffs and waivers in such priority sectors. In order to expand fiscal space through revenue enhancement and cost consolidation, it would enhance the Customs Single Window (being implemented through a Private Public Partnership (PPP) scheme), introduce template for non-allowable expenses for government agencies, control overhead costs by the Efficiency Unit and implement a continuous risk based audit by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit.
In order to improve fiscal discipline at Sub-National level, the federal government would, from next year, extend the Efficiency Unit to Sub-National level; fast track municipal bond issues to deepen the bond market, as well as conversion to International Public Sector Accounting Standards by all state governments. The government plans to pursue its anti-corruption crusade in the new year with greater vigour and accelerate recoveries process, introduce a whistle-blower scheme, centralised database on recovered assets, asset tracking and a professional management of recovered assets. It also plans to rebalance debt portfolio to extend maturity and optimise debt service cost through rebalancing public debt portfolio with increased external borrowing with a target of 60:40 ratio and extend maturity profile of public debt portfolio, while deploying long-term debt instruments and depending more on concessionary loans.
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