Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state, says history will not be kind to the federal government if it fails to protect citizens from hunger and disease during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
In a document released on Wednesday to suggest economic stimulus programs to help the economy recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, Tinubu said the goal must be for citizens not to live with disease or hunger.
He opined that intervention programmes like TraderMoni would only cater to small scale traders and leave out the average salary earner who lost his job due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
“We dare not underestimate the twin dangers posed by the virus itself and the economic consequences of the public health response. Our goal must be that the people live neither with disease nor in hunger. This situation presents a historic chance to establish a more beneficial social contract between the government and the governed,” he said.
“If we so utilize this moment, it will be recorded as a pivotal one in our national history. If we allow this moment to slip, history will not be obliged to treat us with great mercy.
“The worst of this dark potential can be avoided if the government is prepared to act in ways that not only feed people but protect the basic contours of our private-sector economy so that it can more quickly revive once normal conditions return.”
Some of the policy recommendations made by Tinubu, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress alongside President Muhammadu Buhari are:
- Suspension/amendment of the 5% deficit limit of the fiscal responsibility law which prohibits fiscal deficit from exceeding 5% of the nation’s gross domestic product. “The best step would be to suspend the 5% budgetary limit for this fiscal year. Alternatively, the limit should be raised to 25-30% to allow the federal government more room to make the minimum expenditures necessary to save the economy and the people,” he wrote.
- Emergency sustenance payments: This, he said, could be paid to households for monthly needs or as emergency unemployment insurance to people who can prove they have been laid off due to the crisis or as payroll support to businesses to help them maintain staff so they can return to full operation when normalcy returns.
- Re-establishment of agricultural market and commodity boards for strategically important crops to stabilise farmers’ income and consumer prices.
- Import suppression through luxury taxes, higher tariffs and higher import processing fees due to the partial closure of ports of entry due to the coronavirus.
- Conditional interest-free loans from the Central Bank of Nigeria to large businesses. Tinubu said some of the conditions could be maintaining their workforce and even hiring an extra 10% for two or three months at reduced wages. “These additional workers should be youth hired under a temporary internship or training program.”
Other recommendations listed by the sexagenarian include an expansion of the school feeding programme to cover more vulnerable children and a push for debt relief from lenders.