Pension: Infrastructure financing still lacking support of finance development institutions
Security and guarantees needed to take advantage of the country’s accumulated pension funds for infrastructure development that was expected from finance development institutions are still not coming.
Experts have agreed to the fact that unlocking the over N6.5 trillion pension funds to support the country’s infrastructure need, will require the support of finance development institutions, like they have done in other jurisdiction.
Rather than engage and compel pension fund operators who are not expert in infrastructure financing, to invest in infrastructure projects without adequate guarantees, development institutions could be part owners of projects and provide their expertise to achieve success.
According to experts, the lingering debate about utilising Nigeria’s growing pension funds for infrastructure development willnot materialise until there is adequatesecurity and guarantee for the fund to be released.
While the weight of political risk characteristics of the Nigerian environment poses a major challenge, direct participation in the projects and guarantees by institutional finance development banks would helphasten the process and unlock the funds for infrastructure development.
Experts say major finance development institutions like the World Bank, International Finance Corporation(IFC) and African Development Bank(ADB) should assist Nigeria like what they have done in other jurisdiction by participating in infrastructure projects and providing guarantees.
“This has happened in other jurisdictions, so I don’t see the reason it should not happen in Nigeria for the benefit of the Nigerian public, the experts stated.
The experts are concerned about continuous debate on investment of pension funds in infrastructures without fruitful result, saying the participation and clear involvement of major international development finance institutions will build the needed confidence and attract both local and foreign investors to play in the sector.
“They said that policies must be instituted to attract global infrastructure advisors and managers in order to build capacity and facilitate knowledge/ skills transfer to Nigerians.”
Ehimeme Ohioma, head, Investment Supervision Department, National Pension Commission(PenCom) had said infrastructure is a potential avenue for pension funds to reap higher and consistent returns on investment, if adequate policies, structures and regulations are instituted.
He stated that several countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa have successfully utilized part of the accumulated pension funds by investing in new infrastructure projects or renewing dilapidated ones.
Ohioma speaking on the theme “Pension Funds for Economic Development: Investing Pension Funds in Infrastructure” said pension assets in Nigeria, valued at N6.5 trillion are currently the largest available pool of patient capital that could help reduce the country’s infrastructure gap.
According to him, pension fund investment in infrastructure is a reasonable proposition given the good asset/liability match, as infrastructure projects are long term investments that match the long duration of pension liabilities.
He observed that similar jurisdictions like Nigeriahave effectively deployed pension funds for investment in infrastructure projects including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, India and Brazil.
According to him, major projects in the past were hampered by policy inconsistencies and lack of political will, so form basis formajor concerns for deployment of pension funds without adequate guarantees.
He said because of the uniqueness of pension funds which must be available to the owners as and when due,the funds has to be deployed only on commercial viable projects, with full repayment Guarantee by government, especially in the early stages of projects financing.
“There must be also strong political will andconsistency in formulation of policies to retain investor’s confidence.”
Ohioma noted further that the minimum requirements/criteria for pension fund investments in infrastructure, as stipulated in the Investment Regulation is very robust, and provides adequate safeguard for pension fund assets.
“It has open and transparent transactions procedures and processes, in terms of biddings process, contractors, selection and pricing among other qualities.
The Regulation on Investment of Pension Fund Assets has been issued by the National Pension Commissionto allow for investment in alternative asset classes e.g. infrastructure “Bonds” and “Funds”; private equity funds and real estate/housing.
The projects, the guideline emphasised must be of quality, bankable, self-financing and commercially viable. Besides, it must havestrong political risks cover as well as robust legal framework to protect all parties, especially investors.
Nigeria has a large infrastructure deficit in all key sectors, largely due to population growth, demographic change and urbanization, which have driven increased demand for infrastructure in Nigeria.
According to the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), Nigeria needs to spend approximately $3 trillion on economic infrastructure over the next 30 years, if it must meet its own ambitious developmental goals.
Andrew Alli, AFC, president regretted that while Government must be a primary source of funding, Federal and State Governments’ fiscal inflows are grossly inadequate to match the pace of investments required in infrastructure.
Alli said the Nigerian government’s ability to spend is limited based on what it earns.
Extracts from the Nigeria Economic Recovery & Growth Plan 2017-2020 show that the Federal Government’s medium-term fiscal framework forecasts a deficit of N7.6 trillion from 2017 to 2019. This he said, is evident that the Federal Government resources are limited and additional resources will be needed.
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