By Peter Egwuatu
Despite availability of the N100 billion Healthcare Intervention Fund, HIF, the scarcity in foreign exchange, forex, market has now posed fresh challenge to the effective utilization of the funds by the pharmaceutical industry operators.
Consequently, operators in the industry are appealing to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to make a special allocation for all those who are beneficiaries of the facility to be given forex to import what is needed to boost their operations so that they could meet the repayment obligation.
Speaking at a virtual conference organised by the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, the pharmaceutical industry stakeholders testified that many operators in the sector have received approvals for accessing the facility.
President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mr. Sam Ohuabunwa, noted that the requirements for accessing the facility are such that can be easily met.
He stated:” Practitioners in the industry have all they can to access these funds and I am aware that many of them who applied, especially those who are called the first tier, have received approvals and have also accessed the funds through correspondent commercial banks.”
He however urged the CBN to look into the provision of foreign exchange for manufacturers and also grant a two-year moratorium as against the one year that is stated in the guideline for accessing the facility.
In his words : “Instead of one-year they can give two-year moratorium and extend the repayment further down the line.
“I am also aware that a couple of the beneficiaries have been able to apply for the fund to effect what they wanted to do with it.
“Most of them on capacity expanding plants, getting new equipment, starting new processes and procedures and expanding manufacturing both in terms of the type of area and other value addition.
Continuing, he said: “However, because of shortage of foreign exchange, many are running a risk of losing a substantial value of this money and are losing on two sides – inflation and depreciation of the naira.”
On his part, the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Sector of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Founder/ Chief Executive of Fidson Pharmaceutical, Dr Fidelis Ayebae called for reversal of polices that could hamper the growth of the pharmaceutical industry and the manufacturing sector at large.
According to him : “ Policy summersault such as the imposing of value added tax on local pharmaceutical manufacturers whilst allowing duty free importation of finished products makes the local industry less competitive.
“In an era where Covid-19 has ravaged the entire supply chain, slowed down imports, where access to forex has become terrible and we are also talking of the AfCTA coming up next year, they have made us uncompetitive. One of the examples of government policy summersault that is not helping manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies is VAT.”