Gradual Winding Down Of The Lockdown By Federal Government: Reaction From Organized Private Sector.
The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) commends the Federal Government on the gradual winding down of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and FCT, to enable Businesses to come back to life after 4 weeks of total lockdown. This is to balance safety of lives with safety of livelihood, as well as the survival of businesses and the economy. With the intervention, we believe the Presidency is intending to find a balance between promoting public health and moving towards sustaining the economy, as many Businesses are on the brink of collapse and require a return to business quickly to stay afloat.
The Association suggests that, there is need for Government at all levels to regularly review its guidelines and policies after consultations with critical stakeholders, especially the Medical team. This is to avoid a situation of a second wave of the pandemic, as in the Ghana and China experiences. The Philadelphia experience of 1918 on the Spanish flu should also be noted to avoid a repeat of history.
It is of interest to note, that for Businesses to survival and protect its current employment trend, there is need for more direct intervention such as direct wage or income support, wage subsidies, tax credits or tax deferrals, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where Government pays up to 60% of private sector salaries until June as long as workers are not laid off, as done in in other climes i.e. UK, France, and Denmark, etc would reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job loss.
The Association therefore calls on Governments (States and Federal) to put in place National Guidelines to further prevent the spread of the virus. The Guidelines should include compulsory use of sanitizers, free protective gears by Government (face mask, hand gloves (where necessary), maintenance of social distancing, increased education and awareness (posters, etc), total banning of religious, political and social gatherings, limited number of passengers in public and private transportation and strict enforcement of same, amongst others. It will also be imperative for Government at all levels to be more strategic and transparent in the administration of social welfare and palliatives distribution among the most vulnerable.
Of more important, the Association calls for regular consultation with critical stakeholders and the Organized Private Sector for development of workable modalities in the gradual winding down of the lockdown, to know the challenges confronted by businesses due to the lockdown and come up with friendlier approaches.