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Nigeria’s debt of N31tn unsustainable, says LCCI

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Toki Mabogunje
  • Backs increase in electricity tariff, fuel price
  • Seeks more mass transit buses, rail system
  • Urges reopening of borders

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed worry about the nation’s state of economy, particularly the rising debt profile, currently put at N31tn, without corresponding output growth and economic development.

According to the LCCI, the growing level of the country’s debt is fast becoming unsustainable in the light of dwindling oil prices and production.

President of the LCCI, Toki Mabogunje, gave this position at a press conference on the state of the economy on Tuesday in Lagos.

She said the high level of debt servicing had continued to hinder robust investment in hard and soft infrastructure, described as key to stimulating productivity and improving living standards.

She said, “We note the increase in public debt stock was fueled by fresh domestic and external borrowing required to plug the wider fiscal deficit in the revised 2020 budget, given the impact of the pandemic on oil and non-oil sources of revenue.

“We also note the impact of recent exchange rate depreciation on the country’s level of external indebtedness.

“At the peak of the pandemic in the second quarter, the Federal Government received financial support worth $3.4 billion and $288.5 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (AfDB) respectively, while negotiations are also on-going for a cumulative $1.8 billion credit support from the World Bank, African Development Bank (second tranche) and Islamic Development Bank.

“Adding this to prospective domestic issuances could possibly push the country’s public debt stock to around N34 trillion by year-end, equivalent to 23 per cent of the GDP.”

On the nation’s accelerated inflation rate, Mabogunje said the persistent pressure on consumer prices stemmed largely from the sustained uptrend in food inflation.

She said the recent incidents of flooding in key food-producing states in the North had wiped off food and cash crops on a large scale and disrupted output projections in agriculture.

Mabogunje said that the situation, if not urgently addressed, would escalate the pressure on food prices, thereby putting the country on the verge of a food crisis.

She noted, “According to local media reports, over two million tons of rice were lost to flood; other crops such as sorghum, corn and millet were also affected.

“Rising inflation trajectory has serious implications for businesses regarding production cost, investment real return rate, and overall economic performance.

“Looking forward, the Chamber expects inflation to sustain its upward trajectory for the rest of the year.

“The Lagos Chamber calls on the fiscal and monetary authorities on the need to synergise to moderate domestic prices to a level conducive for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“The Federal Government might need to reopen the land borders to give succour to food prices in the light of lower domestic food supply amid huge demand for food.

“Similarly, both the federal and state governments also need to promptly address the issue of food wastage, majorly responsible for the food supply gap being experienced in the country.”

The LCCI president also advised policymakers on the formulation and implementation of policies to facilitate sustainability as business operators grapple with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mabogunje said such policies must support businesses, protect jobs, preserve investment and foster economic competitiveness at both national and subnational levels.

She said the chamber endorsed the adoption of the cost-reflective tariff regime in the power sector.

The LCCI president said the new tariff would attract investment and improve power supply, even as she noted that safeguards were needed to protect consumers from exploitation.

She said, “If the economics of the investment is not right, investors will not inject capital into the sector. However, there should be safeguards to protect consumers from exploitation.

“There should comprehensive metering of consumers and there should be value for money. We believe that policy should be given a chance.”

The LCCI president said the Solar Home Initiative, aimed at expanding energy access to 25 million individuals through the provision of solar home systems or connection to a mini grid was a step in the right direction.

She said the initiative would stimulate growth and productivity in the country’s rural economy.

Mabogunje also commended government on the recent reforms implemented in the downstream segment of the oil sector.

She said the removal of petrol subsidy and the proposal by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to give up majority stakes in the four local refineries were laudable.

Mabogunje, however, appealed for the provision of mass transit buses, development of rail system for intra city and intercity transportation, and the acceleration of the auto gas programme so that more vehicles could be powered by gas.

She said, “We believe these measures are steps in the right direction in rescuing the economy from deepening fiscal crisis.

“We note that the subsidy regime had for long constituted a huge burden on public finances, encouraged corruption, inefficiencies, deterred investment flows, and weakened the earnings performance of oil refining and marketing companies.

“We acknowledge the effect of the price hike on the vulnerable segments of the society. Accordingly, we request that palliatives be provided in form of mass transit buses among other initiatives to ease the burden on consumers.”

Mabogunje also called for the expeditious passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill to consolidate recent reforms in the sector.

On the various fiscal and monetary interventions by the government, Mabogunje said the schemes would help with fulfilling payroll obligations and protect the jobs within the SMEs sector.

She said, “The Lagos Chamber acknowledges the various interventions of the fiscal and monetary sides of authorities in mitigating the adverse impact of the pandemic on economic and business environment.

“The federal and state governments need to expeditiously redirect attention to these sectors, including aviation, hospitality, entertainment, and manufacturing.

“This has become necessary to protect jobs, preserve investments and provide the much-needed liquidity required to revive these sectors.”

The LCCI president said the chamber noted the weak performance of the economy at the sectoral level, particularly among key sectors with potential to drive economic diversification.

Mabogunje said the 6.1 per cent contraction of the Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter reflected the profound impact of the pandemic on the economy.

She said the Chamber anticipated a marginal improvement in the GDP growth performance by the third quarter.

She attributed the anticipated improvement to the declining trend in the rate of confirmed cases of COVID-19, relaxation of various containment measures and the increasing tempo of economic activities.

On foreign exchange, the LCCI President said inappropriate forex policies could discourage fresh capital inflows on foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, remittances, and non-oil export proceeds into the economy.

Mabogunje said this was evidenced by the sharp plunge in the level of capital imported into Nigeria from $5.9 billion in the first quarter to $1.2 billion in the second quarter, partly caused by the capital control policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

She said, “The Chamber notes the various policy measures taken by the Central Bank of Nigeria to conserve the country’s foreign exchange resources in the light of weakening dollar inflows precipitated by the global pandemic.

“While the Lagos Chamber appreciates the efforts of the apex bank in preserving the scarce foreign exchange resources at a time the economy is confronted with the twin challenge of lower oil price and production, we believe demand management strategies alone are not sustainable solutions to the recurring foreign exchange crises.”

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Photos: Kia dazzles Nigerian fans, unveils Sonet, Seltos compact SUVs

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Lovers of compact sport utility vehicles built with sophistication in Nigeria have two new stunning products to celebrate, coming from Kia Motors. They are the all-new Sonet and the high-tech Seltos.

The two models assembled in Nigeria and unveiled in Lagos on Friday to the motoring journalists are expected to substantially raise the market share of Kia in the compact SUV segment, which is fast becoming the toast of many new car buyers globally including Nigeria, especially young trendy people.

Details later…

 

 

 

 

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Southern govs okay VAT collection by state governments

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Governors of the southern states have agreed that collection of value-added tax (VAT) should be undertaken by state governments.

Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, disclosed this on Thursday while reading a communique at the end of a meeting of the governors in Enugu.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service and some state governments are currently in court over VAT collection.

Rivers and Lagos state governments have enacted laws empowering their respective states to collect the tax (VAT).

Last week, the Court of Appeal directed states to maintain status quo on VAT collection pending the determination of an appeal filed by the FIRS.

Akeredolu said that the governors affirmed that the collection of VAT fell within the powers of state governments.

“We resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the state,” he said.

He also said, “The meeting reaffirmed its earlier commitment to fiscal federalism and emphasised the need to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment.”

Akeredolu urged states in the south to leverage the competence of their houses of assembly and representation at the national assembly to pursue the goal.

He said that the meeting reviewed the state of the nation and the progress made in the implementation of the ban on open grazing of cattle in the south of Nigeria.

He said, “The meeting expressed satisfaction with the rate at which states in the south of Nigeria are amending or enacting the anti-open grazing law.

“This aligns with the uniform template and aspiration of governors in the south and we encourage the states that have yet to enact the law to do so expeditiously.

“The meeting agreed to encourage the full operationalisation of the already agreed regional security which will share intelligence and collaborate toward the safety and security of the region.”

The meeting was attended by Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta.

Others are Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Douye Diri (Bayelsa) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).

The deputy governors in attendance were Bisi Egbeyemi (Ekiti), Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo), Kelechi Igwe (Ebonyi), Ude Oko-Chukwu (Abia), Philip Shuaibu (Edo), Prof. Ivara Esu (Cross River) and Placid Njoku (Imo).

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Land Rover to expand Defender with eight-seater 130, showstopper models  

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Land Rover is preparing to expand the Defender lineup, turning it into a family of vehicles similar to what it did with the Range Rover nameplate.

The expansion will specifically cover a long-wheelbase variant, an eight-seater 130, due next year to a posh, six-figure model in 2025, caranddriver.com reports.

According to a report from Autocar, the first variant to arrive will be the 130, an extended-wheelbase version with eight seats and it is due in 2022.

An opulent range-topper is also expected by 2025, and will ride on the MLA platform that will also underpin the next generation Range Rover.

Land Rover already sells multiple versions of the Defender—the stubby but charming two-door 90, the standard four-door 110, and the burly supercharged V8 model.

The 130 should be at least 10 inches longer than the 110, with most of that length added to the rear overhang.

The Defender 130 is expected to only come in higher trim levels and should feature both the six and eight-cylinder engine options.

The US and China will be the stretched Defender’s primary markets, says the report.

The fancier model coming in 2025 will be based on the MLA platform that will underpin the next Range Rover. The MLA platform will support combustion engines, plug-in-hybrid setups, and electric powertrains, and will also form the basis for the next Range Rover Sport, Velar, and Discovery.

This would make a Defender EV possible, but the Range Rover and Velar are expected to have priority for all-electric versions.

The high-end Defender’s interior will be the major distinction, and Autocar says it will feature more vibrant colours and upscale materials.

Although the powertrain landscape will have shifted even further towards EVs by 2025, the luxe-Defender will likely still be powered by the six-cylinder engine.

A plug-in hybrid is also currently sold in Europe, and an evolution of this setup could come to the US as well.

An entry-level Defender 80 had also been rumoured to debut by 2025. It would have been based on the EMA (Electric Modular Architecture) platform, but Autocar reports that this model has been cancelled. That platform will be found in the next Evoque and Discovery Sport, but Land Rover has apparently decided to not move the Defender name down market, as a baby Defender likely wouldn’t have the higher profit margins that should make the 130 and luxury Defender worth the investment.

 

 

 

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