By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has approved N1 billion seed capital for investment in tourism, as the state is set to drive a new growth in hospitality business.
Sanwo-Olu announced the approval of the loan on Wednesday at the 6th Lagos Corporate Assembly held at the Banquet Hall in the State House, Alausa.
The Governor said the investment was required to bolster the hospitality sector by providing key operators in tourism business with soft loans to boost their capacity in driving growth.
The initiative, Sanwo-Olu observed, is necessary to position tourism business as a new frontier for job creation and economic prosperity in the post-Coronavirus era.
The seed capital will be domiciled in the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), the governor said, adding that the funds will be made available specifically to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) operators in the sector.
The governor said the State would also be collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to further create access for fund to support the hospitality business.
The event with the theme: “BOS Meets Business,” was attended by the captains of industry, manufacturers, and members of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
Besides, Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the State had started the first phase of the 6,000km optical fibre being laid across Lagos, with the aim of providing technological infrastructure to support MSMEs.
He said the State had continued to strengthen its Ease of Doing Business policies to drive private investment and economic growth. This, he said, is being made possible by the digitisation of business registration and asset acquisition processes, which, he said, removed administrative bottlenecks.
He said: “We have just given approval for N1 billion support that will be given out through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to support hospitality business in the State. The beneficiaries of this fund will go through screening in line with the requirement of the agency. We are making this investment because of the huge potential for job creation and inclusive growth this sector can bring about.
“We will be working with the CBN for more funding to fully develop the potential of our tourism sector. This effort is being completed with the rolling out of 3,000 km optical fibre across the State to provide technological infrastructure for the MSMEs whose operations would depend on fast Internet networks to drive their businesses.”
With Lagos’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at $130 billion and over three million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which make the State the fourth wealthiest city in Africa, Sanwo-Olu said it was time for the State to strengthen its economy with right policies for accelerated growth and prosperity.
The governor said there will be a review of the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the State by the Federal Government in response to requests by businesses across the State, noting that the ongoing rehabilitation of major bridges and roads had impacted business activities in the State.
Sanwo-Olu said the repeal of 2018 Laws on Land Use Charge was to further create incentives for more growth in the corporate sector, stressing that the new Land Use laws had addressed controversial provisions and remove ambiguity in the levies paid by companies in Lagos.
The governor granted a three-year waiver on penalty for those that defaulted the payment of land use charge from 2017. He also offered a 25 per cent discount for those who make early payment of the Land Use.
He said: “We are granting a waiver of three years in late payment, which covers 2017, 2018 and 2019. We are also giving 25 per cent special discount on early payment. By this, we have achieved a 48 per cent reduction for businesses in chargeable rates by repealing the 2018 Land Use Laws.
“We are taking these steps to show that we are not being insensitive to the plight of businesses and residents, especially in this period of pandemic that have slowed down activities. We have been doing everything possible to make sure businesses are not choked by taxes.”
Sanwo-Olu told the business leaders and MSMEs operators to see his administration as a “real partner” in driving growth. He said the Government would continue to introduce more incentives to strengthen its partnership with the private sector to keep Lagos economy on the path of growth.
Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Dr. Lola Akande, assured that all issues raised at the last edition had been adequately addressed by various MDAs relevant to the improvement of the business environment in the State as updated in the brochure of today’s event.
“This event would have been held in May but for the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which has occasioned the disruption of global socio-political, socio –economic, financial and religious systems and with its attendant losses in human lives, jobs, revenue and impediments in supply chains to mention but a few.
“In order to minimise the economic impact of the pandemic, the Lagos State Government has taken steps to bolster key sectors and alleviate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on businesses in the State. These measures include economic assistance packages such as the 3-month moratorium on loans accessed by the MSMEs from Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and extended time for tax filling.
“The State Government has continually taken steps to ensure collaboration with the Organised Private Sector (OPS) to sustain the existing level of industrialization and to accelerate the momentum of its development,” Akande explained.
According to her, “we also recognise that creating an enabling business environment is the key to job creation, poverty eradication and the overall economic development of the state. This has made the institution of business friendly environment, that would attract more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the state, the central agenda of this administration.
“These reforms have resulted in the improvement of Nigeria’s Ease of doing Business Ranking from 146th position out of 190 countries in 2018 to 131st position in 2019, moving up by 15 places.”
Akande stated that Lagos State represented 70% of the indices used in determining this ranking and that to consolidate on this feat, the state government will continue to use the Corporate Assembly platform to gauge the pulse of the business community for sustained economic development and advancement in the state, improving on Nigeria’s ease of doing Business Ranking as a result.
She said the government is positioned to support the industrial sector to maximise its potentials for greater contribution to the State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic being faced globally.
Towards this end, the commissioner stated that the state government issued letters of authorization to industries to minimise the disruption of their business operations and passes were issued to facilitate the movement of their products within the State during the lockdown, saying that these measures helped in no small way in improving sales of their products.
Representatives of corporate organisations praised the Governor for the reviews of the Land Use Laws. They, however, called for harmonisation of taxes and levies payable to the Government.
Deputy President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Chief Olawale Cole, hailed the State Government for the three-month moratorium given to MSMEs, noting that the incentive would stimulate more commitment in the sector.