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COVID-19: Local savings can help reflate economy – Finance Minister

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 MINISTER of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed has stressed the need to mobilise local savings to  reflate  the nation’s economy after COVID-19.

  Mrs Ahmed made this known during the inauguration of the National Savings Strategy Working Group in Abuja, weekend.

 She urged members of the group to develop easy instruments that are safe to be able to attract ordinary Nigerians to key into the strategy.

   “Let us not forget the average Nigerian that wants to save and does not have huge sums, we need to develop easy instruments that are safe to be able to attract them; look at creating retail savings scheme to allow these Nigerians to save quickly by being able to enter and exit without unnecessary rigours.

  We need to mobilise local savings to reflate the economy, increase productivity by creating new enterprises and ensure that existing ones also thrive.”

  She commended the Ag. DG SEC, her team and the members of the Capital Market Master Plan Implementation Council (CAMMIC) for their dedication and commitment to the implementation of the Nigerian Capital Market Master Plan so far.

  She expressed optimism that ongoing efforts to review the master plan to align the assumptions and projections with current realities, would redefine the road map for stakeholder participation in the Nigerian Capital Market.

  “My expectation when the review is concluded is that we would have a strategic document that provides a clear pathway that would enable the Nigeria’s Capital Market achieve the goal to be Africa’s deepest, most liquid and largest capital market contributing not only to Nigeria’s socio-economic development but also serve as a global financial hub offering opportunities to other parts of Africa.

  Acting Director General of the SEC,  Mary Uduk, said the SEC launched a 10-year Capital Market Masterplan in 2015, a market wide strategic blueprint that had the buy-in of all stakeholders, aimed at making the market deeper, vibrant and more effective.

  Ms. Uduk said the implementation of the initiatives in the 10-year Master Plan would transform the Nigerian market, facilitate the diversification of the economy, encourage savings and create wealth.

  “This will no doubt grow investors’ confidence, improve the depth and breadth of the market in terms of product offerings, engender market integrity, and contribute to the country’s economic growth.

   “I am glad to report that we have taken up the initiatives outlined in the master plan document in a systematic manner while engaging with the government, and other critical stakeholders to successfully implement key initiatives while driving the execution of others”.

  She disclosed that the need to establish a National Savings Strategy was outlined in the master plan as one of the key strategies to enhance capital formation by mobilising domestic funds for investment to drive rapid economic growth.

  She said it envisaged the deliberate provision of risk capital as venture capital and private equity that are naira based and more committed to the long term prosperity of Nigeria, as well as create a buffer to the instability created by foreign investors.

  “On July 16, 2016, CAMMIC set up a 7-Man Technical Committee as a first step towards achieving that goal. The Technical Committee developed a 102-page, 7-chapter Position Paper which reviewed historical data and information on the Nigerian savings-investment culture, the Nigerian financial system, population and economy and the savings and investment strategies of select countries.

   “The purpose of the position paper was to ascertain the need for a national savings strategy in Nigeria and make recommendations on an implementation strategy. The position paper forms the basis for the work expected to be carried out by the National Working Group being inaugurated today.

  She therefore assured that the SEC will provide the necessary support and every other assistance within its capacity to the National Working Group to ensure that their job is done in a timely and efficient manner.

  Also speaking, Chairman of the Working Group, Mr. Fola Adeola said savings was one of the fundamentals of highly developed economies and pledged the readiness of the group to help drive the Nigeria economy.

   “This assignment is coming at a most difficult time as people are worried about the effect of COVID-19 on the economy, but if we get it right now, by the time we ease into good times, we will be better for it,” he added.

  The terms of reference of the group include: To study the National Savings Strategy Paper and advice the federal government on the feasibility of the proposals or with recommended changes; to advise on ways and means of mobilising and channeling corporate and individual savings to accelerate domestic capital formation to support entrepreneurs and enterprise development in the urgent task of diversifying the economy and the deepening of the capital market.

  The Group is also expected to draft a National Working Paper that outlines a detailed roadmap on the implementation of the National Savings Scheme to be submitted for approval by the Federal Executive Council.

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