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COVID-19: CBN Has Disbursed N83B Loans to Healthcare Sector

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CACOVID

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, said the central bank had disbursed over N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical and healthcare practitioners in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has stressed the need for a slash in the cost of governance in the country, saying a lot more resources could be dedicated towards healthcare and critical infrastructure.

They both said this yesterday, at the premiere of ‘Unmasked’, a documentary on Nigeria’s response to the pandemic held in Lagos.

Emefiele, who was represented by the CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Osita Nwasinobi, explained: “Building a robust healthcare infrastructure was also vital from a security perspective, as some nations had imposed restrictions on the exports of vital medical drugs as well as the use of drug patents that could aid in containing the spread of the pandemic.

“As a result, we focused our interventions in the healthcare sector on three areas. Building the capacity of our healthcare institutions supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.

“In this regard, we disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country. We were also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centres across the country. These measures helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the CBN Governor, the banking sector regulator also initiated the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Grant Scheme, which was to aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases.

He said so far, five major healthcare-related research projects were being financed under the initiative.

Speaking further on the call to increase access to health insurance, Emefiele said: “One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians. A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services.

“According to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO), only four percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance. Besides food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure.

“Out of pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals particularly those in rural communities may be denied access to healthcare services.

“Expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes, could help to reduce the high out of pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians. It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.”

“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices. Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities.”

According to Emefiele, the CBN remains committed to working with all stakeholders in improving access to finance and credit that would support the development of viable healthcare infrastructure in our country.

On his part, Sanwo-Olu said: “What are the lessons that we have learned with the Covid-19? Looking at all the things that Covid-19 has cost us, how are we preparing ourselves?

“The truth be told the structure of our governance system needs to change particularly the cost of governance. We need to speak up and ask ourselves are we ready to change.”

“When it gets to the election it is the same set of people that will come up and people don’t come out to vote and we end up having 20 percent out of 100 percent that will elect those that will govern. So, the change has to be about all of us. That is how the real change that will help us will come,” he added.

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Economy

COVID-19: IMF Rolls Out $50 Billion Trust Fund, Targets Low-income, Vulnerable Countries

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IMF global - Investors King

The COVID-19 pandemic, no doubt, has had significant economic consequences, especially on low-income and less developed countries.

It is in view of this that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposed a $50 billion trust fund to help these low-income and vulnerable middle-income countries build resilience and ensure a sustainable recovery through a Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), Investors King has learnt.

The RST’s central objective is to provide affordable long-term financing to support countries as they tackle structural challenges.

According to the IMF, broad support from the membership and international partners will further aid in the approval of the RST by the IMF Executive Board before the upcoming Spring Meetings and for it to become fully operational before the end of the year.

Apart from the pandemic, climate change is another long-term challenge that threatens macroeconomic stability and growth in many countries through natural disasters and disruptions to industries, job markets, and trade flows, among others.

Hence, the RST support aims to address macro-critical longer-term structural challenges that entail significant macroeconomic risks to member countries’ resilience and sustainability, including climate change, pandemic preparedness, and digitalization.

The IMF and World Bank staff have worked closely to develop a coordination framework on RST operations on climate risks, building on earlier experience in supporting countries with structural reforms. Similar frameworks with relevant institutions are expected to be developed in the coming months in this and other reform areas.

Meanwhile, to qualify for the RST support, an eligible member would need a package of high-quality policy measures consistent with the RST’s purpose; a concurrent financing or non-financing IMF-supported program with appropriate macroeconomic policies to mitigate risks for borrowers and creditors; and sustainable debt and adequate capacity to repay the Fund.

The RST would be established under the IMF’s power to administer contributor resources, which allows for more flexible terms, notably on maturities, than the terms that apply to the IMF’s general resources.

Consistent with the longer-term nature of balance of payments risks the RST seeks to address, its loans would have much longer maturities than traditional IMF financing.

Specifically, 20-year maturity and a 10-year grace period has been proposed.

 

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FG Suspends Removal of Fuel Subsidy Over Inflation Concerns

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Nigerian petrol station

The Federal Government has suspended plans to remove fuel subsidy by the end of the first half of 2022 over heightened inflation, according to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.

The Minister made the statement at a meeting with President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmad Lawan, at the National Assembly on Monday.

She said the removal of fuel subsidy at any time this year could escalate inflationary pressure in the country.

“We discovered that practically, there is still heightened inflation and that the removal of subsidy would further worsen the situation and impose more difficulties on the citizenry,” Ahmed said at the meeting.

“Mr. President does not want to do that. What we are now doing is to continue with the ongoing discussions and consultations in terms of putting in place a number of measures.

“One of these include the roll-out of the refining capacities of the existing refineries and the new ones which would reduce the amount of products that would be imported into the country.

“We, therefore, need to return to the National Assembly to now amend the budget and make additional provision for subsidy from July 22 to whatever period that we agreed was suitable for the commencement of the total removal.”

Agusto&Co, a research, credit ratings and credit risk management firm, had projected the same thing in its economic outlook for 2022 sent to clients. The firm had argued that it was impossible for the current administration to remove fuel subsidy given its little political capital.

The firm said no, the FGN can not remove subsidy in full in 2022 because “this is a tough political decision that we believe is best made by a government with a large amount of political capital. Current government has ruled for seven years, has about a year left and has little political capital to expend.”

Augusto further stated that the federal government is not likely to boost infrastructure spending in 2022 “because the ability of government to invest in infrastructure will still be constrained by weak tax revenues and high operating expenses.”

Therefore, it said the government cannot fully fund Nigeria’s 17 trillion budget as its revenue is limited to ₦5 trillion and funding sources are constrained.

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Economy

World-class Lekki Seaport to Start Operations by 2022 Ending

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The total works presently carried out on the Lekki Deep Seaport Project in Lagos have amounted to 80 percent of the completion stage. The proposed world-class seaport has been scheduled to begin port operations by the end of 2022.

 This was revealed during the inspection of the port project construction on Saturday, by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.

Speaking on the progress of the project, Amaechi stated that in less than five months, a lot of civil work had been done.

He commended the contractors for the work done so far while urging them to speed up the work.

“I want to congratulate you for the very huge progress. By the time we came here, there were no civil works; it was just pure sand. You have tried.

“I am suggesting that if you work day and night you will go far and complete the work before commissioning. If the President sees it, approval will be easier,” Amaechi said.

The minister further stated that prompt completion of the project will enable the government to approve all the necessary processes before the next election, adding that six months into the election, government officials would get busy with politics and would be hardly met in their offices.

He advised that more machines should be deployed to the port to aid output and reduce physical contact.

Also speaking, the Chief Technical Officer of Lekki Port, Steven Heukelom, stated that the ongoing project construction was in place as scheduled.

Heukelom explained that the port dredging and reclamation works had attained 89.93 per cent of completion, Quay Wall 85.65 per cent, Breakwater 79.66 per cent, and the landside infrastructure development 67.82 per cent; all amounting to 80 per cent completion stage approximately.

He mentioned that work had begun on the marine services jetty, which would be used by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA for marine services.

He appreciated the Acting Managing Director, Mohammed Bello-Koko for his support and preparations for the seaport operations to kick-start.

Bello-Koko, however, revealed that the NPA has made provision for tug boats and other infrastructure for the smooth operation of the Lekki deep seaport.

Investors King gathered that Tolaram and China Harbour Engineering Company is in charge of the Lekki seaport construction while the Lagos State Government and Nigerian Ports Authority are shareholders in the project company.

The Chief Operating Officer of Lekki Port, Laurence Smith, noted that the company is working tirelessly to deliver the project by the fourth quarter of 2022.

Smith affirmed that after completion, the Lekki seaport would be a world-class port and would be a regional distribution and transhipment hub for the African continent.

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