• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Invest ‘palliatives’ in transportation, healthcare, experts urge Tinubu

Commuters under pressure as transport fares surge

Analysts have urged President Bola Tinubu to ensure that monies meant for interventions/palliatives are channeled to improve healthcare, education among other factors to address poverty in Nigeria.

This is as President Tinubu seeks approval of the National Assembly for a $8OO million loan from the World Bank.

According to the President, the purpose of the facility is to expand coverage of shock-responsive safety net support for all and vulnerable Nigerians.

Under the conditional cash transfer window of the programme, the federal government of Nigeria will transfer the sum of 8000 a month to 12 million poor and low-income households for a period of six months with a multiplying effect on about 60 million individuals.

However, speaking with Businessday, a former director general of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chijioke Ekechukwu said that the government must ensure that monies meant for interventions are spent on what will reduce the burden of Nigerians, especially the low income earners.

For him, disbursing palliatives in the form of cash or increased salaries may not benefit the Nigerian economy as it will lead to higher inflation.

“I do not believe that palliatives should be in the form of money, or increase in salaries because this will in turn increase inflation rate.

” But we can push these interventions to fund quality education, especially at the primary and secondary levels. This will remove much burden from parents.

“We should also use the money to fund health care, empower our hospitals to offer free health care services for certain ailments. This way, Nigerians do not spend so much on health care.

“These things happen in other countries, if we share money, they will not have lasting impact. But by making social amenities available and affordable, people will not have to spend so much of their income,” he said.

“The hardship mitigating measures could be classified into immediate, short term, medium and long term. Such responses would send the right signals to citizens and demonstrate the government’s sensitivity to the devastating impact of the subsidy removal on the poor,” said Muda Yusuf, director, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise.

According to Yusuf, the cost of transportation which is critical to the survival of most citizens has increased by 20 to 50 percent.

He explained that the hike in transport fares and the corresponding inflationary effect is already posing a threat to the livelihood of many, both within and outside the public sector.

“Wage earners, small business owners, informal sector operatives, artisans and the unemployed are all very vulnerable in the current circumstances. This is the context in which the government needs to urgently respond to the current crisis, focusing on the scope of impact, effective targeting, inclusion and the right messaging.

“Immediate panaceas need to be activated, not just with respect to transportation costs, but the surging cost of living generally,” he said.

For him, all agricultural inputs including machineries, agrochemicals, fertilizer, should attract zero import duty and zero VAT, stating that this would boost investment in agriculture, especially commercial agriculture.

He also stressed that gross monthly salaries of N200,000 and below should be exempted from payment of Personal Income Tax [PAYE]. “This will give the low-income earners some room to improve their spending capacity and reduce poverty.

“Citizens have demonstrated an incredible understanding, tolerance, patience and resilience. The government cannot afford to overstretch this gesture and cannot afford to be perceived as taking them for granted. Reciprocity by the political leadership at all levels is urgent, exigent and crucial,” he said.

Also speaking with Businessday, the executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, urged the government to avoid any attempt to promote fraud under the term ‘palliative’.

“We have had governments in the past that diverted funds made for purposes like this for other businesses. Those funds did not get you those that needed them. We do not need that kind of situation to continue, whatever we do must be to support the people of Nigeria.

“Palliatives or support should be in critical areas like transportation, healthcare system. Accessing healthcare has become costly and nearly unaffordable. So palliatives should be in areas that are of great need to the people like provision of clean water, quality education.

“Disbursing cash will not address the issue but what we need now are efforts that will reduce poverty in Nigeria,” he said.