‘Nigeria’s economic fundamentals are strong’

Economy

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The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Office of the Vice President, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, spoke at the weekend on the Federal Government’s programmes to drive the economy, among other issues. Group Business Editor, SIMEON EBULU, reports. The Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters,  Office of the Vice President, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, said when this Government came into office, its three priorities were to improve security, tackle rampant corruption and improve the economy, saying at the onset, the Federal Government met a lot of difficulties in 2015 and 2016.  “There was a rapidly declining exchange rate, deteriorating reserves, increasing inflation and diverging exchange rates,” saying government responded by introducing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan which was developed in an inclusive manner with inputs from state governments, the National Assembly, the private sector, labour, the academia and development partners. As he put it, “it was based on several key principles notably overcoming critical supply constraints, leveraging the power of the private sector, national cohesion and social inclusion, using the market where possible and upholding national values.” Dipeolu said growth has resumed to around two per cent in 2018, admitting though that it is not enough, but nonetheless, “it surely shows a change from the decline experienced during the recession into a positive trajectory.” He added:  “ Inflation is coming down steadily from 18.7 per cent at its peak to around 11.3 percent today.  Similarly, there is stability in the exchange rate and foreign exchange is available. Foreign reserves at over $43billion are adequate with up to sixteen months of cover for imports, while capital inflows have increased and the trade balance is positive.” He pointed out that the Federal Government is also reducing the debt overhang in the economy by paying off debts owed to States, the electricity sector, oil marketers, exporters, and pensioners, amongst others. He said the government is working closely with the private sector through the Quarterly Business Forum, the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council, and the MSME Clinics.   MSMEs, he noted, “are particularly important because they produce half of our national income and employ the majority of people.  They are also benefiting from federal investments in infrastructure, provision of development finance, and improvements in the regulatory environment,” stressing that the MSMEs are also direct beneficiaries of “our Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme which provides interest free credit to table top traders, members of market associations, farmers, and artisans.” Dipeolu alluded to the President’s  statement  in a recent meeting with the business community in which he laid emphasis on infrastructural development, especially through the deployment of resources, are beginning to show. He said in 2016 and 2017, capital expenditure was up to N2,7 trillion, while far more than N800billion has been released in the 2018  budget cycle, saying this is being supplemented by the $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund which will focus initially on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kano  expressway, the East West Road and the Mambilla Hydropower Plant. Continuing, Dipeolu said the President recently signed the Roads Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme which is a partnership with the private sector which allows companies to build roads in return for tax credits, adding that the proceeds of Sukuk bonds of  N200billion  are being deployed for constructing, repairing and maintaining federal roads across all 36 states. Dipeolu said, government’s commitment to infrastructure is further made clear from its investments in rail.  These visible projects, in his words, “range from the Abuja-Kaduna railway, to the Itakpe-Warri line, the Lagos-Ibadan rail and the completed portion of the Abuja light rail project.   These are being complemented by the Coastal Railway Line and the line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.  All rail projects are planned to pass through all the state capitals,” he stated. With regards to electric capacity, he said efforts are on-going to increase generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, saying innovative solutions, like the payment guarantee scheme, the willing buyer-willing seller and the meter asset provider programme, as he put it, “ will help to transform the electricity sector.  These solutions are being complemented by off-grid power solutions, such as the ‘Energising Education’ and ‘Energising Economies’ schemes.   The latter scheme will take power to 16 markets across the country in the first phase.” Dipeolu, also spoke on government’s several key initiatives to promote diversification of the economy, including notably, the Anchor Borrowers Programme, the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, the Special Economic Zones, the F...

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