• Friday, February 23, 2024
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COVID-19: Govt urged to monitor interventions to MSMEs

Economy experts have tasked government at all levels to put in place an independent mechanism to effectively monitor and assess all interventions to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for transparency, accountability and to ensure that the desired impact is achieved.

They noted that MSMEs were the worst hit during the COVID-19 pandemic; and without their recovery, the national economic recovery would be impossible, hence, effective monitoring would boost their chances of survival in the medium and long term.

They spoke during a national dialogue on the “economic impact of COVID-19 and assessment of national, state recovery plans and policy options” organised by the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning in collaboration with Pro-poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria (SMEDIN) in Abuja on Tuesday.

Robert Asogwa, a consultant with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), observed that interventions so far to MSMEs centred on financing instruments were on a short-term basis and may not achieve the desired impact.

He, therefore, called for long-term structural support for MSMEs to complement the short-term stimulus, bearing in mind that the impact of the pandemic is far from over.

“In as much as short-term structural policies were critical to respond swiftly to the issues posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term policies are much more needed because these issues are not over.

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“To ensure the success of these interventions programmes, we must continuously carry out an assessment, to know if they are addressing the gaps created by the pandemic”, he said.

Minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed in her keynote address said the government has carried out several fiscal measures to balance both health and economic issues in addressing the burden of COVID-19 on MSMEs.

These measures, according to her, include the establishment of a N500 billion COVID-19 crisis intervention fund to finance the upgrade and improvement of healthcare facilities; and the creation of a special public works programme to employ 774,000 people.

Others are the scale-up of our social safety net programmes (including cash transfers, and school feeding programmes) to provide enhanced support to our vulnerable, and to women.

“Several fiscal measures were put in place to balance health and economic issues in addressing the burden of COVID-19 on MSMEs, as part of the integrated policy framework which ensures coherence in fiscal, economy and health positions.

“Other response to the crisis under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has and people-oriented, with an emphasis on human capital development, and critical infrastructure.

She noted that the 2019 Finance Act was introduced with various initiatives to boost Agri-business with tax exemption for small businesses.

She also recalled the introduction of the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund, with N25 billion earmarked in the 2021 budget.

Head of project, NICOP, of GIZ, Ana Vinambres in her remarks said in reaction to the global outbreak, the German government allocated additional funds, about around 12 million Euros for immediate support in the ECOWAS region.

She explained that amongst others, German funds were made available to support the development of national COVID-19 immediate response plans, for the training of medical task forces and for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), intensive care-unit (ICU) equipment, as well as a locally produced sanitiser.