By Florence Onuegbu
The Lagos State Government says it has set the process of re-opening its economy in motion, with the rollout of ”Register-to-Open” guidelines.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this at a webinar organised by First Securities Discount House (FSDH) Group, with the theme: ”A Global Pandemic: Local Realities and Peculiarities – A View from the Frontlines”.
Sanwo-Olu was a panelist in the online discussion that also featured Gov. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo, with about 1,200 people participating from across the globe.
He said that the state government was daily battling the reality of balancing reactivation of economic activities and the continuation of the state’s response to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor said that the battle to stop the ravaging virus in Lagos had subjected the state to a delicate situation.
He said it was a situation of having to manage hunger resulting from weeks of slowdown in economic activities and also the movement of consumer goods to keep the economy afloat.
Sanwo-Olu said that the four-page Register-to-Open guidelines were the major part of the measures initiated to achieve phased re-opening of the state economy.
According to him, the government has offered incentives that will affect its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), in order to prevent job loss in critical industries that provide employment for a large number of people.
Sanwo-Olu said that the state government remained committed to tackling COVID-19 and breaking the cycle of its transmission.
He, however, said that there was need to address hunger and job loss that could arise from prolonged lockdown of the economy.
”We have been caught in a very delicate situation between managing COVID-19 on one hand and managing hunger and sustaining an economy that is not only dependent on commercial activities in Lagos alone, but also other states across the federation.
”We have had weeks of engagement with players in fast-moving consumer goods sector and part of the measures we are taking is that, we are giving them additional clearance to work for longer hours.
”Besides, we initiated what we called Register-to-Open, which is a thorough guideline to help the residents ahead of the full re-opening.
”Some of the things we will be seeing in the four-page guideline is, how we want to manage space at various places of business and what numbers of personnel and clients we expect at a given period, which must be based on the sizes of the facilities.
”As we prepare for this phased re-opening, we are giving priority to sectors that have higher number of labour,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The governor, however, maintained that the re-opening would not be done in haste.
He said that the construction and manufacturing sectors would be accorded high priority for full re-opening, given the high level of employment they generate.
According to him, the entertainment, hospitality and aviation industries will be considered in the second phase of intervention.
Sanwo-Olu said that the weeks of inertia in the economy also had significant impact on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), that millions of small-scale businesses operating in the state could completely fold up if the economy was not fully reactivated.
He said that the state government was granting three-month moratorium to MSMEs that applied for loan facilities at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF).
Sanwo-Olu also said that the government had started to compile data of registered MSMEs in the state for operational support that would cushion the effect of economic slowdown on their businesses.
”The other part of our intervention is our conversation with big corporations in various sectors on the requirements they may want from us to ensure that they do not retrench their staff in this emergency period. This conversation is very important.
”The companies have given us a retinue of incentives they want us to give and these are the things that will affect the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
”We are willing to make this sacrifice to prevent loss of livelihood for millions of our citizens,” the governor said.
Sanwo-Olu said that in the course of the lockdown, the state government provided palliatives for over 800,000 households, as there was the need to bring succour to residents that lived on daily wage.
He said that people must trust the government on the management of the coronavirus and data being churned out.
”Lagos has been affected both on the healthcare and economy sides. We have had to take a deep dive into our budget and have about 25 per cent cut, which is not very good number for us.
”This is the time we need to continue to spend to stave off pressure on our citizens. However, we need to be prudent at this time and cut unimportant expenditures. Salary is one thing we cannot even touch.
”In terms of direct economy, entertainment industry, hospitality, land transportation and aviation businesses have been affected significantly.
”These sectors are large employers of labour. We are thinking through on how to reset these sectors in a graduated manner and bring back the economy on the full swing,” Sanwo-Olu said.