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TSA: Why We Mustn’t Throw The Baby Away With The Bathwater

First Bank Nigeria

Femi Aderemi

It is often said that Nigerians are resilient and can ‘suffer and smile’ their way through any situation, however tough. Maybe so. But as Nigeria gradually slides into full-scale economic recession, frowns are beginning to outnumber smiles and many fear the future looks bleak.

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) painted a gloomy picture when it forecast that the Nigerian economy was likely to contract by 1.8 percent this year. Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefelie’s prognosis was no less dire. He disclosed that Nigeria was experiencing economic stagflation, which is a euphemistic way of admitting the economy is experiencing little or no growth, resulting in high rates of unemployment, inflation and a decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Already, the prices of foodstuff, transportation, shelter and other basic necessities are at an all-time high. No one needs to be reminded that massive unemployment only means an increase in social vices. After all, Nigerians have their hands full struggling to make ends meet amidst one of the toughest economic downturns they have ever experienced.

In situations like this, Nigerians are quick to trade blames rather than see the big picture. Some groups and individuals are already blaming the parlous economy on the Federal Government’s implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy. I beg to differ. It is ironic how a policy that eliminates the diversion of public funds by stipulating that all revenue receipts and payments conducted by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) be deposited into a Consolidated Revenue Account (CRA) can actually have negative implications for the economy. Rather, we should blame previous administrations for not implementing such a policy sooner, leaving much room for corruption which well-nigh left the treasury empty during the inception of this administration.

It is also questionable to blame banks’ liquidity problems on the adoption of the TSA policy. After all, we want a banking system that is strong enough to power the economy and keep our investments safe. So there is absolutely no justification for Diamond Bank to lay off 200 staff, Ecobank 1,040 and FBN Holdings a projected 1000 just because the new policy stipulates that Deposit Money Banks (DMB) remit the revenue they receive from MDAs to the CRA at the close of every banking day. A strong banking system cannot be built on profit generated from cash deposits left stagnant while the government is starved of funds meant for capital and other projects.
What this dire situation calls for is that Nigeria urgently diversify its economy away from crude oil. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the veritable tool for economic growth that many other forward-looking nations of the world have adopted. According to statistics, India raked in a whopping $75 billion from its software exports between 2014 and 2015, and is continuously registering double-digit annual growth in the process. At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Kigali earlier this year, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly assured potential investors of positive returns on their investments in South Africa’s infrastructure and ICT sectors. He emphasised that such innovative partnerships could help bridge the financing gaps for economic and social infrastructure.
Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind if we must move forward. Ours is a country that boasts several homegrown ICT companies and initiatives that show much promise and can be encouraged. For the record, Glo has beat the odds to become a powerhouse in telecoms; while Paga and eTranzact are two ePayment systems that have made a difference on the Nigerian economic landscape. More crucially, the revolutionary TSA policy adopted by the Federal Government was invented and continues to be powered by indigenous software giant SystemSpecs, using its software Remita. According to recent reports, the software has already saved the government up to N3 trillion in the first quarter of 2016 alone and has the potential to do more. Recently, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed admitted that the judicious management of the TSA has helped advance the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s fight against corruption and saved Nigeria from imminent collapse. He maintained that this administration had managed scarce resources prudently, thanks to TSA, the anti-corruption fight and elimination of ghost workers. All of this can only be good for brand Nigeria as a reference point for something other than corruption and terrorism.
So rather than throw the baby away with the bathwater, we must begin to appreciate the positive changes in our payment landscape. If change is to happen, sacrifices must be made urgently and that includes economic diversification in favour of ICT.

Aderemi is a Warri-based ICT enthusiast

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