A bitter-to-swallow core of the vice president Yemi Osibajo-led economic sustainability committee says about about 39.4 million Nigerians may lose their jobs on the last day of 2020 as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
The scary prospect forms the nucleus of the committee’s report submitted to president Mohammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja.
However, the committee says this can be mitigated if necessary remedial steps are taken by the government. Among a plethora of strategies suggested by the committee, agriculture, hoising and provision kof reliable power were recommended to prevent serious economic dislocation in the country.
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The Plan, tittled ‘Bouncing Back: The Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan’, also recommended lending support to the informal and small scale business sectors for job creation purposes.
“In addition, the inevitable mandatory lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have had a severe negative impact on farms and factories, as well as on trade, transport and tourism.
“Several projections, including those done by the NBS on behalf of the Economic Sustainability Committee, showed: a severe downturn in our oil earnings, as a result of which, even with the oil price at 30 dollars a barrel, we would still have a shortfall of about N185 billion every month, in the amount available for allocation to the three tiers of Government;
“That Unemployment may rise to 33.6% or about 39.4 million people by the end of 2020 if we fail to take prompt preemptive measures; that millions more will fall into extreme Poverty before the pandemic ends; that GDP may fall to between minus 4.40% and minus 8.91%, depending on the length of the lockdown period and strength of our economic response,” Osinbajo said.
The projection, according to him, also suggested that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) might fall to the negative of between -4.40 per cent and -8.91 per cent.
Osinbajo said his committee had designed responses to the threat, adding that the thrust would be to localise production and consumption.
Highlights of the plan included the mass cultivation of between 20,000 and 100,000 hectares of new farmlands in each state, provision of around 300,000 housing units annually and the connection of more than 5 million off-national grid homes to solar power.
“So we decided on a strategy hinged on Mr. President’s mantra to “produce what we eat and consume what we produce”. In other words, to create millions of new jobs, we need to focus on encouraging local production, local services, local innovation, and emphasize the use of local materials.
“Nigeria and Nigerians can produce our food, build our houses and construct our roads, using local materials in all cases. If we must import, it must be to support local production. We have therefore recommended that we must carry out mass programmes that create jobs and utilise local materials.
“Such will include A Mass Agricultural Programme, which is expected to bring between 20,000 and 100,000 hectares of new farmland under cultivation in every State of the Federation and create millions of direct and indirect job opportunities.
“Extensive Public Works and Road Construction Programme focusing on both major and rural roads and using locally available materials like limestone, cement and granite.
“Mass Housing Programme to deliver up to 300,000 homes annually, engaging young professionals and artisans who form themselves into small and medium scale businesses within the construction industry, using indigenous labour and materials.
“Installation of Solar Home System, targeting 5 million households, serving about 25 million individual Nigerians who are currently not connected to the National Grid.
“We have also recommended -(i) support for local production and manufacturing of all that is possible, including tech apps, software, shoes, garments, steel fabrication, ceramics and furniture, with the required capital and essential machinery.
“The provision of ample support for the informal sector through low-interest loans and by easing procedures for registration, licensing, obtaining permits, etc. By these means, urban and informal business people like mechanics, tailors, artisans, and petty traders, will be encouraged to improve and develop their services.
“Support for MSMEs, especially in assisting to restructure their loans with banks. Among others, this will assist businesses in the pharmaceutical, aviation, hotels and the hospitality industry, private schools, road transportation, technology companies, and the creative industry, amongst others.
“Facilitation of broadband connectivity across the country and the creation of a wide variety of technology and ICT jobs.
“Expansion of the Social Investment Programme, through an increase in the number cash transfer beneficiaries, N- Power volunteers and sundry traders enjoying small and microloans through the MarketMoni and TraderMoni schemes. The preexisting conditional cash transfer will also be extended to cover a larger number of the extremely poor,” he said.
Buhari appreciated the committee’s good work, saying: “I am pleased to hear that the Economic Sustainability committee consulted with both the National Economic Council and the National Assembly and I look forward to a continuing partnership with both organs, to implement what I consider a national plan.
“As we go forward, we must chart a new course and remain steadfast. I believe the priorities contained in this plan present a practical way of achieving our desire for a truly competitive economy that can support our people and secure our future.”
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