President Muhammadu Buhari has justified why his government is borrowing to develop infrastructure. The President stressed that considering the nation’s dwindling revenue base, the government has been left with no option than to access loans to address the dire shortfall in infrastructure. Buhari expressed regrets for the nation’s loss of status as West Africa’s hub for air cargo transportation and trans-shipment of goods. According to him, Nigeria lost the status because of the government’s failure to develop its infrastructure. According to a statement made available to newsmen by his spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, yesterday, Buhari spoke at a virtual meeting with members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) chaired by Prof. Ayo Salami.
He also stressed that loans taken were in the interest of the country. He said: “We have so many challenges with infrastructure. We just have to take loans to do roads, rail and power, so that investors will find us attractive and come here to put their money.” On the nation’s economy, Buhari lamented the ‘collapse of the oil market’ and the need to abide by the reduced oil production quota allocation by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). “We have to accept that decision; otherwise they (Middle-East producers) can flood the market and make the product unviable. So we have cooperated with what we get.
With oil, we are in a difficult situation. The politics of oil is that the less you produce, the more you earn,” he said. On the need to address the issue of poverty in the country, the President harped on the need to invest in agriculture. “For us to bounce back to productivity, especially in agriculture, the unemployed with many of them uneducated had to be persuaded to go into agriculture. “If we hadn’t gone back to the land, we would have been in trouble by now. That is why we virtually stopped the importation of food, thereby saving jobs and foreign exchange,” he said.
The President commended the PEAC members for their patriotism and service to the nation just as he pledged to continue to draw from their wisdom, knowledge and experiences as the nation deals with challenging economic times. Salami, in his comments, highlighted the Council’s recommendations on poverty reduction and stimulation of non-debt investment inflows The council recommended steps for the effective implementation of government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, as well as measures to curb poverty disparity in Nigeria.
It promised to set out a full policy paper that would, in the first instance, stop more Nigerians from falling into poverty and thereafter, further plans on reducing the poverty headcount in the country. The PEAC also outlined a number of measures aimed at aggressively increasing the country’s non-debt investment inflow, including measures to improve investor perception of the country and the proposed establishment of a $5 billion – $10 billion investment and growth fund to invest in.
It listed the implementation of reforms encapsulated in the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 recently signed into law, the reforms in the energy sector, bringing electricity tariff and fuel price in line with the market, and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to merge the exchange rate of the naira versus other foreign currencies.