Nigeria: Report Recommends Assets Sale, Balance-Sheet Approach to Public Finance

25 November 2020

The federal and state governments have been advised to consider the privatisation of certain public assets and services in order to improve its revenue and enhance financial sustainability.

The Sustainable Public Finances through COVID-19 report, which was published by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), however, cautioned that government should avoid poor-value privatisation, which provide immediate cash but reduce public sector net worth.

The report further urged the government to take a balance-sheet approach to managing its finances through through the COVID-19 pandemic to improve decision making, enhance transparency and accountability as well as provide increased clarity on the true position of the public finances.

It said the balance sheet information could improve decision making and should act as the benchmark for new fiscal targets, and will support governments in using sufficient fiscal firepower to rebuild the economy for a more inclusive and greener future.

Authored by ACCA Head, Public Sector Policy, Mr. Alex Metcalfe and the association's Chief Economist, Mr. Michael Taylor , the publication made wide-ranging recommendations which they believed would be a game-changer in the public finance management by governments amidst the impact of the pandemic going forward.

The study urged governments to minimise reliance on either tax increases or austerity measures by taking a balance-sheet approach to fostering sustainable public finances.

It pointed out that this could be achieved through maximising the return on public assets, focusing on value for money in the use of public resources, and by expanding the scope of the PSBS to include a broader range of capitals.

The report among other things, urged the government to reset current economic frameworks, in the light of the COVID-19 crisis, and consider what fiscal rules will guide their decision making during the recovery phase.

"New frameworks should include fiscal rules that move beyond debt to GDP ratios and instead rely on public sector net worth, providing a comprehensive view of public finances that includes public assets and non-debt liabilities.

"As part of resetting fiscal limits, governments should develop medium-term plans for capital spending that support a green recovery and inclusive growth - while also considering the possible economic multipliers arising from any public investment decision.

"Revised fiscal frameworks should also provide a planned path to recovery, setting out how sustainable public finances will be achieved over the medium- to long-term."

Speaking during the report presentation, at the recent ACCA-ANAN Sustainable Public Finance conference in Abuja, ACCA Nigeria Country Head, Mr. Tom Isibor, told THISDAY that the COVID-19 pandemic had caused major disruptions to "how we live and how we work and obviously on sustainability."

He said, "So we have to also look at how to support and partner with the government in finding solutions to financial sustainability and that's why we put this together to share our research findings and thoughts and see how we can support government in its efforts towards recovery."

Also speaking with THISDAY at the conference, Professor of Accounts, Finance and Information Technology at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Paul Adebayo said though Nigeria has good policies which are sufficient to turnaround the economy to reduce wastes, "ours is the challenge of implementation".

He said the country is further blessed with human resources, lamenting that mismanagement remained a major concern.

"All these mismanagement still boil down to one common enemy fighting Nigeria and Nigerians - corruption. Until corruption is taken care of and expunged from our nation, our march to greatness will be kept in abeyance.

"No matter the sophistication of the policies, strategies and programmes put in place, once this monster called corruption is not taken care of, it's just a day dreaming."

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