… Parleys with Business Community
The Plateau State Government has advocated for more funding and incentives for small holder farmers in the country.
Governor Simon Lalong made the appeal while addressing a summit and technical roundtable discussion of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) on strengthening small-holder farmer capabilities in the COVID-19 era held recently in Abuja.
According to a statement signed by the Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor, Dr. Makut Simon Macham, Lalong said that these farmers needed every support to build their capacity to embrace modern farming practices, harvest, store and add value to their produce as well as access better marketing channels for better earnings.
He commended NEPAD for the initiative which he said was in tandem with the priority of his administration which is anchored on using areas of comparative advantage for sustainable economic rebirth.
Said he: “We welcome NEPAD’s initiative in Plateau State and ask you to take advantage of the Agriculture Microfinance Bank which is the first of its kind in Nigeria. We hope you can easily connect and assist our farmers through this avenue and many others which we have been using to equip them with the relevant knowledge and skills.”
Lalong added that agricultural institutions in Plateau State, available land, manpower and its peculiar weather for production of exotic crops made it a natural destination for programmes such as this and assured that Plateau women would be carried along in the programme as most of them were hardworking and had been trained by various agencies to take advantage of opportunities in agriculture.
The summit had in attendance governors of Kebbi, Kwara, Niger as well as deputy governors of Adamawa and Nasarawa states.
Meanwhile, Governor Simon Lalong has commended the business community in Plateau State and assured that government was doing everything possible to sustain the peace in the state.
Lalong stated this during a parley he held with the business community in state held at the Government House, Jos.
Governor Lalong explained that the parley was held in a year full of challenges that have impacted not only the business environment in the state but all over Nigeria and the world.
He said, “COVID-19 remains a major challenge that altered so many plans particularly for government and businesses recalling that the state experienced other challenges such as the ENDSARS protests that snowballed into looting and destruction of public and private properties including businesses.”
Lalong while sympathizing with those who suffered loses, disclosed that the parley was aimed at interacting and reflecting on what could be done to enhance the business environment in the state.
“We also want to listen to you the organized private sector directly and understand your challenges that will hopefully drive the government to come up with sustainable solutions. Of course, it is at this forum that we can look back at what we discussed during the 2019 interactive dinner to see if the recommendations we put forward made any impact.
“Our vision of engendering sustainable economic growth is anchored on the role that the business community can play to ensure that our people are empowered to create jobs and reduce unemployment.
This interactive dinner therefore provides another opportunity for us as a Government to discuss our level of commitment towards the improvement of the business enabling environment of the State and explain some of the reforms we have been carrying out.”
While reiterating his administration’s continuous effort in ensuring the Ease of Doing Business by removing obstacles in the way of investors, Lalong announced that the State Government have completed and commissioned the Plateau State One Stop Investment Centre designed to bring together all relevant Federal and State Ministries, Departments and Agencies under one roof to reduce the burden by business registration, permits, licenses and approvals.
According to him, there is no doubt that COVID 19 has affected the nation’s economy by crippling businesses hence government at both State and Federal levels have developed ways in reducing the impact of the pandemic in the economy adding that as a way of tackling the impact of Covid-19 on the state’s economy, government had directed the Economic Advisory Council to come up with sustainable post-Covid Economy Recovery Plan and the team has since submitted its report, with most of their recommendations being implemented by the State Government.
On some of the ways forward, the governor said: “I directed that going forward most expenditure and resources will be prioritized in the three drivers, Agriculture, Mining and Tourism, which is in line with the State Strategic Plan Document.
“Attention will also be focused on the key enablers such as peace, security and good governance, enhanced IGR, infrastructure, ICT, education and health. Re-skilling will be critical in the Post-Covid19 economy through the following: Deepening innovation and rewarding creativity, retraining of workers to adapt to the new normal, helping workers adapt to digital workplace and preparing unemployed youth and women to leverage on the huge opportunities in the Economic Sustainability Programme of the Federal Government and international organisations.”
He added that government had also reviewed the cost of governance and deepened transparency in line with realities of the new normal as well as directed that government expenditure be focused on key sectors with most impact and multiplier effect.
Lalong further disclosed that the current administration had introduced the Liquidity Management Committee to ensure methodical-efficient management of scare funds and also reviewed the 2020 budget from N177bn to N122bn to bring it in line with realities to ensure only prioritized expenditure
“To further open up the State for ease of transportation and business linkages, I approved a partnership with Max Air to offer Jos-Abuja-Jos flight, which has commenced operations.
“Recently, we organised another Policy Retreat to enable our heads of MDAs evaluate our performances so far and do more. I am happy to report here that the retreat was fruitful as it gave us opportunity to check how far we have gone in actualizing our vision.
He stated that aside the Project Monitoring and Result Delivery Office supervised by the Chief of Staff with clear mandate to ensure diligent tracking of Projects and Programmes implementation by all the MDAs, government is further working on improving the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which he acknowledged slightly gone up yet is still a far cry from the target.
“We engaged a consultant to help us leverage on technology and strengthen institutional capacity for effective revenue collection and accountability.
According to Lalong, as a government that is sensitive to the suffering of businesses across the State, his administration had introduced palliative tax relief measures to help mitigate the adverse effects of the COVID-19 on businesses on the Plateau. These measures according to him, include extension of time lines for filing of annual returns; waiver of penalties and interests charged due to late returns; reduction of interest for late payments and granting of one (1) percent bonus to all tax payers who file returns early.
Other measures taken, he said are: the suspension of enforcement of outstanding tax liabilities and reduction of taxes payable by informal sector businesses by up to 50 percent among others.
“Added to this is the implementation of aggressive tax audit and investigation on all organizations in and outside Plateau State which led to the recovery of over N3.8 billion from Federal MDAs alone.
“I have summoned all my heads of MDAs here so that you can engage them and take them to task in their areas of jurisdiction. Please feel free to tell us the truth and push us towards delivering our promises to the people of Plateau State,” he stated.