Published On: Fri, Apr 27th, 2018

Nigeria’s focus is to generate more revenue—-Udoma

Udoma Udo Udoma is Nigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning. He was a Senator for the Akwa-Ibom States Southern constituency at the start of the Nigerian Fourth Republic running on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Udoma spoke to journalists in Washington D.C, USA on the highlights of Nigeria’s 2018 budget which is currently stalles at the National Assembly. Excerpts…

Udoma Udo Udoma

What are you taking away from the world bank Spring Meeting in where fears have been expressed about Nigeria’s ballooning debts as well in other countries on the African continent?

I am very encouraged by the fact that the positive developments in Nigeria are being recognized. The positives about economic recovery and growth plan, the things that we are doing to encourage investment,to  make Nigeria more investment- friendly. I’m happy that all those are being recognized. And the fact that the economy is out of

recession and is growing again is also being recognized and the fact that growth is not dependent solely on oil. That there is growth in agriculture and other areas, so it has been a positive meeting for me.

Give Nigerians an update on the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP)?

 At the moment the focuse labs are being conducted in agriculture,transportation, power and gas, manufacturing and processing. The response has been very good. We are looking forward to organizing an open day in which we will share the results with the Nigerian public, that should be in the next one or two weeks. So that is going on well and I am very encouraged by it. One of the focus is that government should generate more revenue given that that is what is needed to fund the budget

Are there new steps to ensure that there is adequate revenue to finance the 2018 budget?

As you know, the focus of the ERGP is to generate more revenue. As you are also aware, we have the tax amnesty to try and increase the tax revenues being generated, we are looking at some of our excise duties and so the focus is to generate more revenues. Our problem is not a debt problem, our problem is a revenue problem and so we are focused on generating much more revenues.

What are lessons you are taking away from this meeting ?

What I am taking away is that one, there is a lot of interest in Nigeria, two there is a lot of support for Nigeria, three, they acknowledged the positive developments that are going on and they acknowledge that we are on the right track. We just need to accelerate a bit on some of our measures. We have a lot of measures in the ERGP and we need to accelerate them. They are happy about our foreign exchange reserves which is growing, about the market system that we are using for foreign exchange management. So there is a lot of positive signals coming out of here for us to take away and we are encouraged.

Can you be more specific about the interests and support you have received?

Well, even whilst I was here a lot of companies met with me interested in investing in Nigeria, in agriculture and transportation. So there is a lot of interest in investing in Nigeria. You know I am also coming from London where I was with Mr. President and there was an investment summit on Nigeria and there were a lot of interest. So these are positive signals we are getting.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on putting the right infrastructure to drive growth and we understand how much this is tied to the expansionist budget that we have been running, it is four months into the year and we still do not have a budget, how much of this do you think will impact on some of the positive change we are getting?

Well, the signals that we are getting from the National Assembly is that they are now working hard to get this budget out in the next few weeks. That is very positive and we are encouraged by it.

At what rate do you think the country should grow to make you comfortable and how soon do you think we can achieve that?

Our target is 7% by 2020, that will make me comfortable, but above 7% will make me even more comfortable. And that is why we are working so hard. Even though we are working hard, the rate of growth is still slow. So we will like it to pick up and that is why there is a need to work even harder. They say the reward for hardwork is more hardwork and so we are poised to continue to focus on the various measures in the ERGP. We believe that we are already seeing some positive results and we believe that we will get there.

What are you doing to absorbe economice shocks when they come?

I think the key is revenues, we just have to make sure that we have a broad based growth, that we are growing in agriculture and other areas within our control, I think that is what we are trying to do, that is the best measure we can take. In terms of inclusiveness of growth, as you know, this is a government that is committed to making sure that we carry everybody along. And that is why we have the social investment programme in which we have committed N500 billion every year in the budget, the school feeding programme, the GEEP programme. So we have a number of programmes to make sure nobody is left behind.

It’s been established that debt is not a problem for Nigeria but debt servicing has been a major concern that has been raised since the beginning of this meeting, what is the Nigerian government doing to get more foreign revenue to help service these debts?

Well, it is basically revenue which I was talking about. I did talked about the tax amnesty programme to raise the level of taxes, I did talked about the adjustment in excise duties on tobacco and alcohol to try and raise more revenues. So those are some of the measures to raise more revenues.



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