Suspension of tax and levies payments for six months, support in payment of salaries, creation of a Business Continuity Trust Fund (BCTF), and creation of special intervention funds, are some of the ways by which governments can help businesses to avert job losses that would likely trail the current coronavirus-induced economic lockdown, the Organised Private Sector has said.
Timothy Olawale, Director-General Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), an interview, said government at both federal and state levels would need to take specific measures to aid businesses if jobs are to be retained by enterprises who will struggle to regain their rhythm after the pandemic.
“While it’s desirable to keep jobs, the government must, however, take deliberate steps to support businesses in order to avoid job losses. Specific palliatives such as suspension of tax and levies payments for six months, support in payment of salaries, creation of Business Continuity Trust Fund (BCTF) to aid recovery after the pandemic and other similar initiatives will help businesses to remain competitive,” said Olawale
The DG added that there would need to create what he called ‘special intervention funds’ at the national level to aid quick recovery, warning that “the longer the lockdown, the higher the probability of job losses.”
Olawale, who had on Wednesday galvanised Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of businesses for a virtual meeting with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, said the OPS, was expecting that the critical decision reached the meeting would be fully implemented by the government.
“Our main expectation is the implementation of all the decisions reached during the meeting, especially on support to businesses in Lagos State, engagement with his (Sanwo-Olu) colleagues in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the step-up of security to protect lives and properties.”
The DG noted that it was important that the state government continues to engage and collaborate with NECA to facilitate the continued supply of essential goods and ultimately, the gradual return of economic activities in the shortest possible time.
He, however, pointed to other areas where the state government can still help businesses, including but not limited to tax waivers, relief in payment of some statutory charges and levies for a period of 3-6 months.
Other areas, he said, would include suspension of business premises renewal (for 2020) and or Land Use Charge (waiver).
Olawale also pointed to the provisions of support to non-essential workers, whose contracts were suspended during the pandemic, adding that “companies can collate such data of non-essential service providers affected, like cleaners, drivers, security, among others.”
The DG, while praising Governor Sanwo-Olu for seeing the need for the virtual meeting and pledging support for the OPS, said “while we understand that some of these palliatives might be outside the control of the Lagos State government, said that the business community believes that the governor can bring his influence and leadership to bear on relevant agencies responsible.
Governor Sanwo-Olu had during the meeting expressed the intention of his administration to review the lockdown of the state in the next seven days and ease the challenges faced by businesses in Nigeria’s commercial city.
Sanwo-Olu also promised that he would speak to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to address the issues of charges on cash deposits and cheque clearing, especially during the lockdown.
The governor also promised to speak with the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, to facilitate the fast-tracking of clearance of essential raw materials from Lagos ports as well as speaking with his colleagues in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to enhance the ease of access to passage for businesses in their states.