Both the Federal government and the private sector has agreed that the country has suffered greatly from the failure of the National Assembly to pass a plethora of legislation necessary to boost the economy.
Particular among these dozens of laws is the long-standing Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which according to Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had made it difficult for new investments in the petroleum sector in the country.
At the closing plenary session of National Economic Summit on Thursday in Abuja, “The fact that we have not passed the petroleum industry bill means that for several years we have not had new investments in petroleum industry coming into Nigeria.”
She added that, “Investors are not willing to come into an environment when they don’t have any clarity as to what the legislation, what the laws would be and their options. So if you are talking of what is the costing us, well that is an exercise we have not done in government.”
The minister of state for budget and national planning stated the government was determined to remove the bureaucratic bottleneck in clearing goods at the ports, saying that the Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business was aimed at achieving this.
She noted that the single window being proposed for the customs means that there will be significant reduction in number of operators and regulators at the various ports.
“At the opening ceremony (of the Economic Summit) the Vice-President spoke clearly about key reform in customs clearing being the single window that we trying to put in place.
“This means that there will be a significant reduction in the number of operators, or regulators at various ports. It means the requirement to meet in terms of documentation in import and export is also going to reduce.
“It is going to be largely electronic and provides more transparency in the process.”
She informed that the Nigeria Customs Service would soon introduce scanning machine to scan good coming in to the country instead of opening up containers to do physical inspection, which she stated took a lot of time.
“There is also an investment that the Customs is right now doing in bringing machinery that will be able to scan goods coming in without having to open up containers and check because opening up of containers to physically check items also takes a lot of time,” she informed.
“The ease of doing businesses is also one focus area for government and it is largely driven by trying to get efficiency within the public service function especially in areas that interface with the private sector,” the minister added.
Speaking on what government planned to do with the recommendations of the 2017 NES, the minister said the government just received the recommendations, adding that it would set machinery in place to review them in order to plan for their implementation.
Speaking on high rate of interest being paid by government on domestic borrowing, Ahmed said it was the market that determined the rate, declaring that government had decided to reduce its level of domestic borrowing to enable the financial sector to borrow to the private sector.
“Government cannot go out to borrow and say I’m borrowing today at 21 or 22 per cent. The market actually determines the borrowing.
“The point we are making is that because government is borrowing heavily, the financial sector is now concentrating on borrowing to government and the private sector gets very little or no attention because why will the financial sector bother going through credit when they can buy treasury bills and earn 21 or 22.
“So what we realised was that government must reduce it level of domestic borrowing to free the space so that the financial sector is enabled to borrow to the private sector.”