Lagos State government has set in motion the process of re-opening its economy, with the rollout of register-to-open guidelines. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the state government daily battles the reality of balancing reactivation of economic activities and the continuation of the state’s response to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The governor said the battle to stop the ravaging virus in Lagos had subjected the state to a delicate situation of having to manage hunger resulting from weeks of a slowdown in economic activities and also the movement of consumer goods to keep the economy afloat.
He said the four-page register-to-open guidelines were the major part of the measures initiated to achieve phased re-opening of the state economy, adding that government had 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 labour.
Sanwo-Olu disclosed this development while speaking 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”. The governor was a panellist in the online discussion that also featured governors of Kaduna and Edo states, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i and Godwin Obaseki.
The webinar had about 1,200 people who participated from across the globe.
Sanwo-Olu said the state government remained committed to tackling COVID-19 and breaking the cycle of its transmission, but added that there was a need to address hunger and job loss that could arise from prolonged lockdown of the economy.
The governor, however, maintained that the re-opening would not be done in haste, but said construction and manufacturing sectors would be accorded high priority for full re-opening, given the large number of employment they generate. He added that entertainment, hospitality and aviation industries would be considered in the second phase of the intervention.
Sanwo-Olu said the weeks of inertia in the economy also had a significant impact on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), stressing that millions of small-scale businesses operating in the State could completely fold up if the economy is not fully reactivated.
In addition to granting three-month moratorium to MSMEs that applied for loan facilities at the Lagos State Employment Trust Funds (LSETF), Sanwo-Olu said the state 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.
Answering a question on the biggest consequence which COVID-19 had on the state economy, Sanwo-Olu said: “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 a 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.”