Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr Chinyere Almona, has charged the federal government to address matters affecting ease of doing business and other real sector parameters, for improved economic outcomes.
Almona gave the advice at a familiarisation parley with newsmen on Friday in Lagos.
The LCCI DG, who assumed office in July, said government must adopt an emphatic tax administration in line with evolving international best practices to better the lot of the business community.
Addressing ease of access to foreign exchange, Almona stressed that policies guiding the sector must be in line with the country’s economic strategy to accommodate the needs of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
“We have a case where the supply of forex does not meet the demand and this has put persistent pressures on the Naira, leading to its weak position against major currencies.
“Many businesses now source their forex needs from parallel markets at above N525/$ and we need to boost the supply side of the forex market through more inflows from exports, diaspora remittances and crude revenues.
“Commercial banks may not be able to cater to the demands for foreign exchange in the country and it’s time to rethink the policy in line with Nigeria’s economic strategy,” she said.
On the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the LCCI DG urged industrialists to build capacity in understanding the rules, opportunities, procedures and financing options available for trade expansion under the agreement.
“Secondly, government must create an enabling environment by curbing the menace of insecurity that has made it difficult for busineses to access to raw materials for production.
“If our MSMEs produce at higher costs, their products will not compete well at the international markets.
“Thirdly, there should be dedicated funding for targeted sectors where MSMEs operate to empower them scale up to meet international standards.
“Government must establish more MSME hubs, particularly high employment sectors such as textile, Agricbusiness, and entertainment, to drive industrialisation,” she said.
Addressing Nigeria’s rising debt profile, the LCCI DG, noting that borrowing itself was not bad, stressed that funds borrowed must be spent on capital items aimed at driving the business environment to succeed.
She advised government to create a catalogue of the nation’s assets, value and commercialize them to attract investments and generate revenue for the country.
Almona also called for reforms of the nation’s ports and the Nigeria Customs Service to address issues of extortion, human interference, and duplication of funds payments.
She charged the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to do more to improve the lot of the business community and increase Nigeria’s ranking in the Ease of Doing Business index globally.
On the country’s inflation indices, Almona noted that the rate at 17.38 per cent was still high and could discourage savings which was needed to fund required investments that drive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
“We need to lok at the factors responsible for this high level inflation and tackle them.
“We must tackle insecurity, supply chain disruptions, scarcity of forex as they are the major factors pushing the inflation rate high,” she said.
Pushing gender equality, the LCCI DG, noting that both genders were equally useful, stressed that Nigeria must start to operate at 100 per cent equal gender capacity to create a balanced society.
She charged parents to bring up children rightly without any segregation of roles and chores to create a balanced playing field in homes, the community and the business world.
Almona reiterated the commitment of the chamber to work with the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to ensure that the THEMES agenda of his administration turns Lagos into a mega city.
She called for better collaboration with the private sector for more efficiency and effectiveness on activities to promote economic development.
“Lagos State needs a multi-modal transport system to solve the traffic congestions on our roads today.
“With a rising population, increasing industrial activities, and an influx of persons into the State, we need to have a transport system that can cater to these demands,” she said.
The new LCCI DG pledged to build on the successes and sustain the projects of her predecessor in line with maintaining the Chamber’s standing as the leading voice of the organised private sector.
“My over 30 years of professional experience would aid my plan to develop strategies and direct implementation to meet the objectives of the chamber while maintaining the growth of the institution post COVID-19.
“I would also ensure that members get the right benefits, services and support in taking their businesses to the next level locally and Diaspora wise,” she said. She appealed for continued support of the media to drive the Chamber’s advocacies and provide a voice for the Organised Private Sector.