41 items: Stakeholders back FG on forex restriction removal
The trading stakeholders have thrown their full weight behind the Federal Government over its current proposal to reverse the blanket restriction placed on 41 items of import including raw materials, which is believed to have led to the shutting down of manufacturing outfits with the attendant loss of jobs.
There were strong indications at the weekend that the Federal Ministry of Finance may be working on a new fiscal regime that might lead to the removal of the foreign exchange restriction placed on 41 items of import.
This is part of measures by the government to relieve the nation’s currency, the naira of the pressure, which has made it to fall againt other international currencies, including the dollar especially at the parallel segment of the foreign exchange market.
The 2017 Fiscal Policy Roadmap, a document released by the Minister of Finance Mrs. Kemi Adeosun believes that the foreign exchange restriction imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN was putting pressure on the value of naira at the parallel forex market.
President of the National Council of Manaing Direectors of Licenced Customs Agents NCMDLCA, Mr. Lucky Amiwero, who spoke in a telephone interview, said the imposition of the blanket restriction was wrong in the first place.
Accoring to him, by imposing that restriction, the CBN, which primary duty and responsibility is to issue monetary policies merely usurped the functions of the Federal Ministry, which is statutorily charged with the functions of issuing and managing fiscal measures.
He said that the Ministry interacts more closely with the real sector operators including the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises SMEs and was therefore in a better position to determine which products should be restricted.
“Fiscal measures when properly and timely managed help to attract invesments and create wealth but the manner in which the CBN handled the forex restriction made it counterproductive”
“It is not all the 41 items that should have been restricted from accessing foreign exchange through the official market. Some selected items, especially raw materials that cannot be produced locally in the needed quantity should have been exempted”, he argued.
Amiwero however urged the Minister to do a proper review of the policy so as to address all its shortcomings.
The Minister had while throwing more light on the new policy, said that the government will replace administrative measures on the list of 41-items with fiscal measures to reduce demand pressure in parallel market.
“The Federal Government would actively partner the private sector to achieve this by the use of a number of new funding platforms, including the Road Trust Fund, which would develop potentially tollable roads, and the Family Homes Fund, which is an ongoing Public Private Partnership PPP initiative for funding of affordable housing”.
“The tax provision would allow companies to receive tax relief for investment in roads on a collective basis would also be reviewed”, the Minister further stated.
Meanwhile, Director of Trade and Exchange of the CBN, Mr. Olakanmi Gbadamosi, who stood in defence of the policy, said the exclusion of the items was in order to ensure efficient utilisation of forex.
He had also argued that the policy, if allowed to stay, would encourage patronage of locally made goods, arguing that Nigerians are still in the business of importing everything.
Some members of the Organised Private Sector OPS including the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry LCCI and some other stakeholders have listed a total of 12 items that should be excluded from the 41 items.