The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has urged the Federal Government to further liberalise Nigeria’s visa policy to attract more foreign investment to the country.
The President of LCCI, Babatunde Ruwase, gave the advice on Tuesday in Lagos at a news conference aimed at setting an agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari, who won the February 23, 2019 presidential election that earned him a second term of office.
Ruwase said: “We propose that our visa policy regime should be more liberal.
“We should grant nationals of selected advanced economies visa-free entry to Nigeria for a maximum of 30 days.
“This is the practice in many of the emerging economies, which have benefited tremendously from this policy.
“This will impact positively on our Foreign Direct Investment, particularly the hospitality and tourism industry.”
Ruwase also called for the establishment of a Lagos office for the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission to create a one-stop shop for business men and women willing to do business in the country.
He said: “The interface of the NIPC is frequent and critical to achieving the objective of promoting investment and creating jobs.
“We urge the government to intervene in correcting this unusual situation.
“We need a Lagos NIPC office that will have the powers to substantially attend to all the needs of investors.”
Ruwase urged the government to initiate policies and programmes that would accelerate the country’s economic growth and ensure that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product growth rate surpassed its population development rate.
He said: “The full year GDP growth was 1.9 per cent, better than 2017 of 0.8 per cent.
“This performance is still weak and fragile.
“It is also far below 3 per cent annual population growth.
“This remains a cause for concern due to its implications for poverty and sustainable growth in the country.
“Private sector investment is a critical growth driver.
“Therefore, the government should commit to the creation of an enabling environment to bring about a quantum leap in private investment.”
According to him, the country’s tax, trade, monetary and foreign exchange policies should be aligned towards achieving economic growth.
Ruwase spoke of the need for the government to fast-track the development of a fiscal sustainability strategy.
He said: “We need to deal urgently with the cost of governance as well as the issue of value for money in government expenditure.
“We recognise that there is a correlation between investment growth, GDP performance and tax revenue.
“This underscores the very important role that investment can play in boosting the revenue of government.
“As investment grows, job creation will improve, and tax revenue will be positively impacted.
“Currently, the summation of recurrent expenditure and debt service is equal to total government revenue.
“This financing structure is certainly not sustainable.
“What this means is that capital projects will naturally be funded by borrowed funds.”
Ruwase urged government to evolve an effective Public Private Partnership to attract private capital in the financing of bankable public sector projects.
He acknowledged government’s efforts to improve liquidity in the power supply chain, drastic reduction in the debt owed to gas suppliers, and improvement in power generation.
He said: “We are also aware that the Minister of Power is promoting alternative models to fix the problem at the distribution end, but a chain can only be as strong as its weakest link.
“The distribution end is still grappling with numerous challenges, which limits the capacity to deliver power to end users.
“The power situation continues to pose challenges to business operators.
“There are complaints across all sectors about high energy costs especially high expenditure on diesel.
“The situation has worsened with the increase in global crude oil price.”
He proposed that policies and incentives be put in place to encourage decentralisation and more off grid solutions projects.
Ruwase urged government to encourage off-grid power generation for improved access to power, saying that the Aba and Sura market power initiatives should be widely replicated across the country.