Towards boosting the economy, the federal government has enunciated various policy incentives to attract capital investments, both local and international.
Minister of finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, who made this known while speaking at the First Bank 125th anniversary lecture in Lagos yesterday, said the federal government recognised the need to build fiscal buffers and incentives that would attract both local and foreign investments into the country.
According to her, the government is working on doing more to enable businesses thrive in the country as it needs more real investments than portfolio investments.
Stressing the need for government to partner with the private sector, she said, the infrastructural deficit is too large for this government or any government to tackle alone, so we must partner with the private sector and allow private capital to come in and use it to develop our economy.
“We must do more than we are doing now in terms of enabling the business environment and improving security, both physical security and security of capital, so that when investors choose to come to Nigeria, they are comfortable enough that the investment will grow and flourish, so that they can bring their monies in and take them out. So we must learn from the mistakes we made in the past.”
Addressing the banking industry, she urged the management of banks in the country to employ the use of technology to deepen financial inclusion.
“In Africa and Nigeria, we have a unique opportunity that will help a good financial system; that is a huge opportunity for us in Nigeria. The local banking industry has been champions in Africa. We are proud of banks such as First Bank that are representing us well across several countries. We need to use technology and automation to enhance financial inclusivity in the country.
“Government on its own part needs to work with the financial system to provide that required covering for more Nigerians. We also want to look at how we can tax technology; there are so many transactions that happen now, including in our country that we are not getting any benefit from.”
The minister, who also read President Muhammadu Buhari’s goodwill letter to the bank, said that the anniversary was a noble and rare milestone in the history of Nigerian banking system. In the letter, Ahmed quoted President Buhari as saying, “First Bank has provided a platform for the economy to thrive from the pre-colonial era, amalgamation period and beyond.
“I commend your iconic institution for its consistency in providing financial service in Nigeria and the world as a whole for the past 125 years. The bank has maintained a positive reputation within and outside Nigeria, made an indelible mark and maintained its leadership position despite the rapid changes in the global economy.”
On his part, the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, praised the vision and resilience of the bank which culminated in the spread of its branches across the country, Africa and Europe.
President Akufo-Addo, who was represented by Prof. George Gyan-Baffour, Ghana’s minister of budget and planning, said that African countries should leverage its resources and add value to its raw materials to enhance global interdependence.
In his remarks, Prof. Daron Acemoglu of the Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), U.S, who delivered the lecture, said technology was key to drive productivity for economic growth.
Acemoglu urged the federal government to strengthen institutions and invest more in health, education and technology toward achieving high quality economic and inclusive growth.
On her part, country manager, International Financial Corporation (IFC), Mrs Eme Essien, stressed the need to put more capital in the right direction and to also ensure an alignment of policies.
According to her, Nigeria needs to deepen financial inclusion, innovate more and make access to loans easier.
In his response, the chief executive officer, First Bank, Adesola Adeduntan, explained that the bank survived the hurdles of the past years due to its ability to innovate and transform.
According to him, the bank has made great strides in enhancing financial inclusion in the country, saying First Bank is the only financial institution with over 750 branch presence in all states.
He reiterated the bank’s commitment to continued innovation, transformation and technology use toward boosting the financial system.
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