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Columnists

The “new normal” in business and economy

In the new normal, business owners are faced with overwhelming, competing challenges.

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The "new normal" in business and economy

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, leaving citizens of the world a new world order, businesses need to navigate their financial and operational obligations. They are also expected to meet the needs of their greatest assets – customers and suppliers.

The crises may have paved way for uncertainties, but it has also created opportunities for sectors to emerge and grow, while some will fall and vanish if not properly managed and strategized as the companies who will stand firm in this era will be those that implemented risk management as part of their business strategy.

While this crisis is first and foremost a public health issue, which has claimed the lives of thousands of people worldwide and still counting, the economic would no doubt be overwhelming and is likely to create major economic meltdown in both the formal and informal sectors

READ ALSO: Airtel Africa’s profit up 12.9%, customer base reaches 111.5 million

The train must be primed to chug along now! In the new normal, business owners are faced with overwhelming, competing challenges. They are surrounded by treacherous waters now darkly infested with COVID-19 sharks. Still, they must continue to dive into the deep end of the global pandemic.

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A business’s success depends in part on the economic systems of the countries where it is located and where it sells its products. A nation’s economic system is the combination of policies, laws, and choices made by its government to establish the systems that determine what goods and services are produced and how they are allocated. The resources of a person, a firm, or a nation are limited. Hence, economics is the study of choices—what people, firms, or nations choose from among the available resources. Every economy is concerned with what types and amounts of goods and services should be produced, how they should be produced, and for whom. These decisions are made by the marketplace, the government, or both. In the United States, the government and the free-market system together guide the economy.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Inflation rate jumps to 12.40%, highest in over 2 years

Business owners therefore should have their priorities clearly mapped out; providing support and being a backbone to their people, customers and suppliers. They must achieve all this, whilst simultaneously addressing supply chain disruptions, maintaining stable profit margins, aligning their businesses with evolving demand and changes and identifying potential pitfalls and new growth trends.

Businesses in the new normal require a new mindset to recover from the crises, thereby identifying, analyzing and addressing effective strategies that would help the business return to normality and grow. This is the time to build organizational relationships with strategic partners for proper execution of effective strategies.

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Management personnel and stakeholders are quickly turning their attention to the ‘next’; that moment of unpredictable and probably muted economic recovery with newly identified threats and opportunities. This is a new era defined by fast-changing initiatives to shift the cultural norms, societal beliefs and values, such as renewed brand purpose.

READ MORE: IMF expects Nigeria’s GDP to shrink by 5.4% in 2020

Leaders, corporate and political, are faced with the urgency to reopen their businesses.

To bridge the gap of uncertainty, reopening would require a series of ‘reinventive’ thinking. The pandemic offers a big opportunity to have companies invest in areas they wish they’d paid more attention to before the crisis. Now, to be more digital, data-driven, and in the cloud; to adopt a variable cost structure rather than fixed, to find its root in e-commerce and security are no longer deferrable agendas.

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Consequent to the pandemic, organizations globally are experiencing an unfamiliar change in their workflow processes and harnessing their workforces optimally. Companies are yet to fully understand and determine how working remote working will help achieve corporate objectives beyond the survival hump. Profitability and business models are being cautiously reviewed. Teams and workforces try to function and perform in line with expected deliverables whilst struggling to cope with even more sombre personal and existential challenges in the new normal.

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Organizations, teams and workforces need new and bespoke fitting plans today. They need to formulate strategies and drive policies that can position them advantageously to work out and around the emerging challenges as the state of global health and economic unfolds. All stakeholders have critical roles to play in developing and establishing systematic approaches that promote shared workforce resilience, flexibility and intelligence.

Similarly, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed customers, employees, citizens and humans’ experiences, attitudes and behavior forever. The norms of behavioral consumer psychology are deviating from the expected curves. Results, though displaying expected changes, are creating sweaty anxiety for boardroom decisions. The crisis has caused a fundamental change in human-human interactions and behavior. In the new world order, companies would necessarily need to review and redesign operational flow and operating models. These changes would impact greatly on design, communication, running expenses, remunerations, investments etc. The definitions of that people need and want has been reshaped and businesses need to blend into the new, emerging ecosystem so they can properly reposition for sustainability and profitability. The global pandemic has created uncertainties and forced companies to reevaluate and reinvent how business operations units are leveraged. It has redefined how digital platforms can be used in supporting and ensuring continuity in the business through and beyond the crisis.

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The state of the economy affects both people and businesses. How you spend your money (or save it) is a personal economic decision. Whether you continue in school and whether you work part-time are also economic decisions. Every business also operates within the economy. Based on their economic expectations, businesses decide what products to produce, how to price them, how many people to employ, how much to pay these employees, how much to expand the business, and so on.

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The crisis has fundamentally changed supply chain management economics and dynamics; we are in uncharted waters. Routes to market are evolving which would inevitably kick some companies off the market and make some others tether on balance. In response to the pandemic, leaders have been mandated to increase their adoption of value chain transformation to help outrun uncertainty. For those who are able to successfully navigate to the other side of this new normal, it becomes imperative to establish strategies for greater resilience and apply lessons learnt to create systems and models that would better prepare companies and stakeholders for further future disruptions.

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Columnists

A critical analysis of the N1.163 trillion Lagos State 2021 budget

To fund the 2021 budget, Lagos State says more companies will remit taxes in 2021.  

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Lagos State thrives as the economic backbone of Nigeria and with its GDP rivaling African nations, it is no surprise that what happens in Lagos, affects Nigeria in its entirety.  

Following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lagos State had quite naturally reduced its expectations for the year 2020. From a proposed budget of N1.169 trillion, the State reviewed it downwards by 21% to N920.5 billion – out of which it was still able to attain an overall performance of 86%.

Total revenue alone was 93% of projections and this is despite the pandemic, the additional costs of the #EndSARS protests, as well as the other disruptions that followed. As the Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning & Budget, Sam Egube puts it, ‘excuses build bridges to nowhere.’  

READ: Oyo State IGR increased by over 26% without increasing tax burden – Gov Makinde

That said, a 2021 budget of N1.163 trillion is nothing short of audacious, particularly considering the revisions made to last year’s projections. Signed into law by the Governor on 31st December 2020, it was prepared to first prioritize the completion of all on-going projects in the State and then to meet a series of objectives from employment creation, increased investment in human capital development, i.e. education and healthcare, deployment of functional technology in public services, amongst others.  

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While the budget succinctly themed, “Rekindled Hope” and the many proclamations of the T.H.E.M.E.S agenda are remarkable, revealing a desire to reach for more, there is ardent need to interrogate the sources that make up the budget, what they are projected to be used for, and the possible limitations between the lines.  

READ: FG to create “Special Instruments” as part of plans to formalize its borrowing from CBN

Funding the budget and the debt quagmire  

The total budget of N1.163 trillion is expected to be funded from a total revenue estimate of N971.028 billion, made up of Total Internally Generated Revenue (TIGR) of N723.817 billion, capital receipts at N71.811 billion, and federal transfers at N175.400 billion.  

While the figures for Federal transfers and receipts are said to have been conservative, the breakdown assumes that a key part of the budget is expected to come from the State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).  

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During the official budget speech, the Commissioner of the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget had explained that Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) performance is expected to increase by 30% in 2021. On one hand, systems such as simpler collection systems are being tightened to boost revenue; on the other, more companies will remit taxes with many tax holidays from 2020 taken care of in the past year.  

READ: FIRS hits 98% of target as it collects N4.95 trillion for 2020 fiscal year

They also expect to harness the huge revenue-generating opportunities in the State particularly in the real estate and transportation sectors while also leveraging data to uncover available opportunities. Following the 21% revision of the past year, particularly with many of the same challenges still at the fore, the assumptions for the projected revenue can really only be proven by their delivery.   

The deficit of N192.494 billion is projected to be funded by a combination of both internal and external loans. Now, while borrowings of N192.5 billion compared to projected IGR of N723.8 billion is relatively fair as the State is projecting to internally generate almost 4 times of its proposed borrowings, the underlying debt challenge of the nation should naturally still cause a few raised eyebrows for the additional debt – even though it is projected to be used in its totality to fund capital projects. The ongoing instability in the FX market, as well as the increasing debt burden this will pose, are some of the main points of consideration with the budget deficit financing.   

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READ: PenCom boss queried for spending N5 billion on 380 staff in 8 months

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Speaking at the “Facts-Behind-The-Figures Media Roundtable,” Commissioner for the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Sam Egbe explained that most of the loans taken will be in Naira in order to protect the State from FX risks as much as possible. The Commissioner of Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, had also explained that the loans to be taken are well within fiscal sustainability levels.   

He explained that “We cannot depend on our own internally generated revenue or the federal transfer that we get from the federal government if we want the kind of development that Lagos needs at this time. For this, there are two main benchmarks that we follow. We have the federal debt management office benchmark of 30% debt to revenue, and of course the World Bank benchmark which is 40%. We closed the year 2020 at 19.8% and for the year 2021. While we project about 22% debt to revenue ratio, we are still within both benchmarks.”  

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The deficit financing of N192.5 billion is proposed to be raised through local capital market bonds of N100 billion, external loans of about N55 billion, and internal loans of about 37.5 billion.  

Priority sectorial allocation  

The total expenditure for the year 2021 is broken down into capital and recurrent expenditure at N702.9335 billion and N460.587 billion respectively, a ratio of 60:40. While there could be arguments as to the sustainability of the allocations given the infrastructural gap in the State, there are a few extra-budgetary strategies for funding projects that the government put in place to bridge the gaps.  

Some of them include Private Sector Infrastructural partnerships, bespoke financing terms, and structured (also PPP) critical infrastructure as used for the blue and red rail as well as the metro broadband fibre ring. The argument is that the State can deliver more than can be captured in the budget.  

The allocation breakdown for the total N1.163 billion based on the Classification of Functions of Government (COFOG) also reveals an upward increase in Economic affairs (consisting of Agriculture, Commerce, Tourism, Art & Culture, Energy and Mineral Resources, Transportation, Infrastructure and Waterfront) from 26.55% of the budget in 2020 allocation to 29.35% at N341.4 billion in 2021.  

This implies that opportunities could exist in these areas for Lagosians and international investors willing to produce the value the State requires to meet its objectives. While the sectorial allocation isn’t bereft of limitations as indeed it really cannot solve all the problems at the same time, major considerations should be around its successful implementation and the government’s continued transparency to Lagosians in economic happenings.   

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Columnists

The Nigerian insurance sector; repositioning for efficiency

For the industry to thrive, the regulators may also need to deepen micro insurers’ activities in the Nigerian economy.

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Insurance in Nigeria, FBN Holdings Annual general Meeting, FBN General Insurance Limited CEO Bode Opadokun, FBN General Insurance Limited 2018 financial result

The Nigerian Insurance sector is critical to propelling income equality and reducing the poverty level of any society, but the industry’s performance has continued to drag amid many factors, such as; low underwriting capacity of players, lack of trust by consumers, poverty and the inadequacy of distribution infrastructure.

These factors have jointly contributed to the abysmal level of insurance penetration – the proportion of insurance business to the gross domestic product over the years.

READ: Fintech key to insurance penetration, processing of claims – LASACO MD

The Nigerian Insurance sector remains largely underdeveloped with Insurance penetration still at c.0.5% to GDP. The sector which contracted by 18.67% y/y in the Q3 GDP report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is set for a deep recession in 2020.

The covid-19 pandemic effect has increased health, travel, and business disruption claims. These claims, coupled with underwriters’ inability to write risks in Q2 and the tapered household income should amplify the sector’s expected recession.

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READ: AXA Mansard divests from its pension and real estate ventures

In a bid to rid the sector of these known drags, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), the primary regulator in the industry launched its recapitalization exercise in May 2019. The plan’s proponents intend to improve the industry’s minimum paid-up capital in each business segment, thereby solving premium flight issues that have continued to plague the industry.

Following the lingering impact of coronavirus, the deadline was adjusted from June 2020 to December 2020 to implement Phase I of the project while the deadline for the second phase’s performance was moved to September 2021. Some players have called for an extension of the regulator’s deadline given the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses.

READ: FG seeks partnership with National Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, here’s why 

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However, most of the industry’s bellwethers have entirely shored-up their minimum paid-up capital to the required level. In our view, firms that are yet to meet the required capital threshold may likely lose out on the opportunities available on the supply side of the market.

Furthermore, for the industry to thrive, the regulators may also need to deepen micro insurers’ activities in the Nigerian economy.


CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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Imposters, uniforms and our collective awe

The uniform of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, and other Government Security Agencies have become so powerful, that they serve as a form of identification.

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FG deploys more military troops to Lagos to secure public assets

On a bright, sunny Tuesday morning in Lagos, Col. Saki Abdullahi (not real name), got into his personal car and hurried to the bank to sort out some issues with his account and perform some transactions. He was dressed immaculately in his well ironed and starched uniform and you could see your reflection in his well-polished shoes.

As he approached the gate of the New Generation Bank in Victoria Island, one of the Security Guards beckoned on him to open his boot for the usual search. Col. Saki knew the drill and with one touch of a knob near the seat, he flicked open the boot just as the guard walking past him noticed his uniform and rank.

The Guard immediately closed the boot with the briefest of glimpses into it and signaled for his colleague to open the gate. Col. Saki found this rather curious because, on previous visits to the same bank branch, he had been subjected to more scrutiny by the guards on duty.

He parked his car and walked towards the security doors that granted access into the banking hall. He was briskly saluted by the guard and when the door appeared to disallow him entry (on account of his car keys and belt), he was still given swift access. Generally, the Staff was all super courteous and helpful and he left the bank in next to no time.

On the drive back to his office, he had a call and he hesitated as he could not find his hands-free device, but the person on the other line was not someone he could ignore his call. So, he picked and put the phone to his ears and began a conversation. He got to a point and had to slow down in traffic. A Lagos State Traffic Official (LASTMA) who got in front of his car and attempted to stop him because he was on the phone and driving, took one look at him and moved on.

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Then it dawned on him that the reason the LASTMA Official did not bother to approach him was the same reason the guards and bank staff were so nice to him. He was in his Army uniform and in Nigeria that confers a special status and privilege on the wearer.

All over the World, members of the Armed Forces, Police, and other Uniformed Government Security are accorded some form of respect and privilege. It is an unwritten rule borne out of respect for the sacrifices that they make daily for the rest of the citizenry to enjoy the most basic freedoms and security. These privileges however do not in any way place uniformed personnel above the laws of the land or above the rest of the civil populace.

The unbridled privileges and rights that years of Military rule have inadvertently conferred on Uniformed Personnel have created a class of citizens that cannot be questioned and led to a growing army of Impostors, fakes, and impersonating Uniformed Officers of the Law.

In Nigeria, it is a normal sight to see men of the Armed Forces beating up and molesting citizens for daring to wear camouflage clothing on the Streets, as this is deemed as an attempt to impersonate a member of the Armed Forces. Curiously, these outfits are readily available online, and wearing them in other parts of the developed world is not considered a crime or impersonation.

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Section 110 (1) of the Criminal Code makes it unlawful for any person who is not serving in any of the Armed Forces in Nigeria to wear the uniform of the Armed Forces or any part of the uniform of such Forces, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the Regimental or other distinctive marks of such uniforms. Camouflage is a part of the military uniform and so it falls under this law.

So, the basic reason for outlawing the wearing of camouflage amongst civilians is security, but if we look at countries with the strongest armies in the world and the prevalence of citizens being allowed to wear camouflage and other dress articles associated with the military, we also notice crimes committed do not have a correlation with the wearing of uniforms. So, the real issue is not the uniform itself, but the access, privilege, power, and rights it confers on the wearer.

Just this past week, it was widely reported that 2 suspects were nabbed by the Oyo State western Security Network codenamed, Amotekun for producing and selling fake Amotekun uniforms. This was after 6 persons were arrested while posing as members of the Corps. Amotekun has launched just over a year ago on January 9, 2020, and already criminal groups are making counterfeit versions of its uniforms. So, you ask yourself, why would anyone want to buy counterfeit versions of Amotekun uniforms if not that they believe it’s a means to access power and riches that they would otherwise not be able to get if they were in civilian dress.

While growing up in Lagos in the early ’80s, uniformed personnel boarded public transportation and were exempted from paying fares. This was done as a form of respect and appreciation (especially after the Civil War), but the sight of uniformed personnel wearing just an article of clothing in the uniform e.g., the Cap, T-Shirt or Pants on a weekend private outing just to avoid paying their fare has become embarrassing. Once Commercial Drivers put uniformed personnel in the front seat of their vehicle, they are emboldened to break all the traffic rules including driving against traffic (One Way Driving).

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The uniform of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, and other Government Security Agencies have become so powerful, that they serve as a form of identification. You are not allowed to request to see the identification card of anyone in uniform, to do so can lead to physical intimidation.

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The Military High Command has done its best in recent years to improve military and civilian interaction and to create lines of communication for the civil populace to report incidents of misconduct. These actions have led to a manifest improvement in the civility of interactions between the two sides.

During the last nationwide #EndSARS protests, an Airforce Officer was lauded by all for the manner he was able to calm down the protesters and ensured there was no destruction of property and no loss of lives.

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As we continue on the journey of nationhood, we have to decide as a people what form our respect and the privileges, we accord our men and women in uniform should take.

As we mark Armed Forces Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our Fallen Heroes, we owe it a duty to discuss how we honor them, while maintaining the rule of law across the board and the dignity of the rest of the civil populace.

‘Long live the Armed Forces, Long Live The Federal Republic of Nigeria’

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