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.
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.