The need for the Federal and Akwa Ibom governments to support the informal sector which accounts for 80 per cent of the economic growth in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic has come to the front burner.
Chris Ekong, a professor of Economics who made the call on Tuesday, predicted that the country’s economy may drastically nosedive in the next six months if the government folds hand and fails to ginger the sector which was vibrant before the pandemic.
Ekong, currently the Director of International Programmes, University of Uyo, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State while answering questions during Team Nigeria Classic programme in Inspiration 105.9 FM, Uyo, stressed the need particularly for Akwa Ibom government to inject financial stimulus into the sector for exponential economic growth in the state.
Speaking on the topic: Informal Economic Sector In A Pandemic Era, he enumerated those in the sector to include food vendors, masons, auto-mechanics, newspaper vendors, and tailors, among others who are not coordinated and duly registered with the government, noting that people in this sector daily generate and spend money.
“When the government drives them away from a particular spot, they move away easily and return the next day to continue with the business. They are not registered with the government, but they pay rates and other levies to the government revenue agencies.
“By doing this, they help to stimulate the economy. You can imagine what will happen in the next six months if this sector is not assisted owing to the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic lockdown on the sector” he observed.
The university don, therefore, advised the state government to give soft loans and other forms of assistance to operators of the sector who contribute significantly in paying rates and levies on a daily basis to the government’s revenue agencies to allow them to grow.
According to him, the US government pumped in fiscal stimulus to the sector to allow them to come up and stimulate the economy, saying this was successful.
He, however, urged the government to establish and allow the operators to join Contributory Pension Scheme to enable them to pay and draw their contributions during rainy days from the scheme and use the same to sustain themselves and their families while waiting for another job.
Ekong noted that some years ago Nigeria was rated as the biggest economy in the continent because of the significant role played by the informal sector in jacking up the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.