Buhari urges private sector to join economic recovery battle

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President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday challenged private sector operators to take the lead in the battle to revive the economy saying they hold the key to its quick recovery.

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The president, who spoke at the 44th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Abuja, enjoined the private sector to work with the Federal Government towards taking the country out of recession.

Noting that the government will rely heavily on the input of the private sector in its economic policy, he extolled the contributions of Aliko Dangote and other manufacturers. He said the private sector is indispensable in the development of the economy.

According to a statement, President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote advised the Federal Government to expand the tax net rather than increasing tax rate as currently being advised.

He said: “The crux of our problem is therefore the depth and quality of diversification. To be impactful, diversification in Nigeria has to occur across several fronts. There is export diversification, which involves creating multiple streams of foreign exchange income by exporting a variety of value added products (as well as services).  Next is fiscal diversification to shore up the contribution of non-oil revenue to total government revenue by increasing tax receipts. The emphasis should however be on expanding the tax base rather than increasing the tax rate.

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“Diversification is no longer an option, it has now become the only hope. Diversifying the Nigerian economy can sometimes be misconstrued to mean neglecting the oil and gas sector. On the contrary, the oil and gas sector needs to be deepened and expanded to enable us unlock the full benefits in the hydrocarbon value chain.”

Dangote said though diversification of the economy has to be private sector driven, government has a huge role to play in creating a conducive climate for businesses to thrive. According to him, one of the biggest challenges in Nigeria today is the deteriorating macroeconomic environment. “Government needs to quickly restore confidence in the economy by beefing up its external reserves while making efforts to improve the overall business climate. Investors always look out for stability of the local currency among other factors in making decisions on whether or not to risk their investment in any economy.  To effectively diversify the economy, the private sector would require foreign exchange to make the necessary investments in new sectors,” Dangote said.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr OkechukwuEnalamah said the government will continue to partner MAN in order to get the economy out of recession.

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He said, going forward, the administration will be creating enabling environment for businesses to thrive; implement the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan; champion and facilitate macro, medium and micro economic programmes as well support the participation of the manufacturing sector into the global chain.

MAN President, Dr Udemba Jacobs commended Dangote for his contribution to the manufacturing sector.

“I most especially thank the President of the Group for his generosity to the association always.

“The Dangote Group which started as a small trading firm in 1977 is today a multi trillion naira conglomerate with its operations spanning across many Africans countries,” he said.

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The MAN chief extolled the Buhari’s position not to adopt the European Union (EU)-Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), as well as the recent policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  allocating 60per cent of all available foreign exchange for the manufacturing sector for the importation of raw materials and machinery.

Senate President Bukola Saraki who was represented by Chairman Senate Committee on Industry, Senator Sam Ominiyi Egwu  said the Senate was ready to work with the  manufacturers, especially now that the country is facing economic challenges.

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