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Govt should cushion effects of COVID-19 on SMEs – NASSI chair

Govt should cushion effects of COVID-19 on SMEs – NASSI chair

The Ondo State Chairman of Nigeria Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Mr GreatSheyi Akintunde  spoke with FATIMA MURAINA on the implications and  effects of the lockdown on the economy as a result of COVID-19 pandemic among  other issues. 

Excerpts:

What are the implications of the lockdown on industrialists as a result of COVID-19 pandemic particularly  on  the artisans ?

The lockdown was  effected because government wants to  control the spread of  coronavirus.  It means no one will go to work and this will affect the livelihood of several people who are in the  private sector.

Lots of money has been lost since we started  and I am sure that much more  will be lost during  the course  of the lock down. We must be ready to weather the storm. For instance, same school of thought said ‘it is better for us to stay indoor hungry,  than to die  of coronavirus.’  It is not expected that coronavirus should  kill everyone but then, because  of government policy,  it has a grievous effect on the people  in the private  sector, particularly the Medium  Enterprises Operators who determine  the  economy of the country.

The lockdown  affects  each individual and everybody including the government whose Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has drastically gone down while the cost of maintaining  the  health of the  state rises.

Will lockdown affect unemployment?

Unemployment has been a major challenge in the country and when the factories were locked down, those that  were employed have to stay at home  joining the unemployed. It is sure that the effect of coronavirus will generate reduction in wealth acquisition,  reduce financial power because when the lockdown is lifted, companies will not be able to have the capacity to maintain  the tempo at  which  they were  operating before.  This will lead to  lay  off of many and so unemployment  will rise. And that is why government must find a way to cushion the effect of this deadly  disease by protecting  the people from the consequences, finding a means of livehood for the people bearing in mind that some of the people asked to stay  at home do  not have the financial capacity to stay home for the next 14 days. They do not have food and domestic utilities that will  keep them indoor  for the next two weeks.

We are fortunate that over 70 percent  of the people belong to organisations. Some  of  them are in different associations of which government can go through  their leaderships  to distribute palliatives. If it is going to be food it could go through those associations and it will definitely  go down.

What about those who may not be members of any associations?

It is not impossible but like I said, if government is using organizations or associations, government would have accomplished close to 80percent  of its mission and 80percent is a pass mark.

There is no data for government to use in presenting  palliatives to everybody. We must understand that in  giving palliatives, government  should be able to work with associations.

If government is not using this, it can make use of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) if it is financial  inducement, but  the only thing I will  say is that if a state is going to use it,  will the state be able to identify the citizens through BVN? And if it is possible it could be used to credit their accounts so that they could purchase whatever they want.

 Why is it so difficult  for government to know her people?

We have advocated  that government should come up  with a data base. Sometimes ago, NASSI  decided to generate  a data base for those that are in the industrial sub-sector of the economy.

If there is a collaboration between government and NASSI, I can assure you that comprehensive data can be generated such that at the end of the day we could get those that are in different sectors of the economy of the state and it is high time that government placed, priority on some of these things.

Data generation is an important thing when it comes to the citizens. There should be mapping of our major cities.  There is no layout that is  substantively inclusive and could handle the whole communities in a particular local government area.

Government should have a data bank with whatever ministry and then consultants should be employed to generate this. It has been difficult in the time past because government has not been proactive about it and nobody ever thought about this but Coronavirus would have thought us several lessons.

There will be data base of several sectors after this time and there will be active palliative plan for citizens after this time by government.

Thank God Ondo state government has taken step in fumigating the market places and motor parks but I must tell you it is not only the market place and motor parks that should be fumigated. The industrial parks where there are concentration of industries should be fumigated. We should have a way to fumigate every room in the industrial parks, all over the streets and towns should be fumigated so that we can stop the spread of the virus.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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