BY JONAH NWOKPOKU
LAGOS — THE Minister of Finance and the coordinating minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that manufacturers in the country must justify the waivers that the government has granted them by creating jobs and addressing unemployment.
She stated this yesterday, while addressing members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN during an interactive session with the association in Lagos.
She said that the government has embarked on several sector-based policies to solve the problem of individualised waivers and ensure that all players in each of the manufacturing sectors get equal opportunity and waivers.
She said, “Sectoral waiver policy has been around for quite sometimes now. It was strengthened in 2010 and now ensures that all sector players get equal waivers. There have also been other waivers to address market failures but players in the manufacturing sector need to demonstrate how these waivers are affecting their performance positively.
“They must show how the waivers are helping them to create jobs and address other economic problems; otherwise many people would continue to see it as a way of perpetuating corruption.”
The minister, who used the opportunity to highlight the efforts the government is making to address some of the challenges confronting manufacturers in the country, underscored the importance of the manufacturing sector in the economy, saying there would be no modern Nigeria without the progress of manufacturing sector.
“Despite the several challenges confronting the government at the moment, the government would continue to put up policies that would advance manufacturing in the Nigeria,” she said.
Earlier in a welcome address, the president of MAN, Chief Kola Jamodu, said the interactive session was inspired by the need for the government and the association to come together to assess the performance of MAN.
He noted that government has identified that Nigeria’s manufacturing sector is strategic and occupies enviable position in the industrial sector in Africa, especially in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Jamodu said by empowering the manufacturing sector and injecting more investments into the sector, it will help to address the high rate of unemployment in the country.
According to him, the manufacturing sector has begun to show signs of recovery as capacity utilisation has moved from 41 to 55 per cent in the sector and there has also been increase in the use of local raw materials from 47 to 51 per cent in 2013. These, he said, is made possible by various measures put in place by government as well as continuous dialogue with MAN.
He also noted that there has been an increase in investments and productivity in the sector as a result of government incentives, and urged the Federal Government to continue with sector-based incentive policy.
He however lamented the challenges being faced by MAN members as a result of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report, PAAR recently introduced by the customs. He said it is causing delay and avoidable demurrage. He also decried high interest rate in the economy which he said is a huge obstacle to long term investment in the sector.