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By NBF News
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President Goodluck Jonathan has said the Federal Government would invest the petroleum subsidy money on the provision of basic infrastructure in the country.

He gave the indication yesterday while addressing the first Presidential Retreat with the private sector on economic development and job creation, at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, adding that the Federal Government was fully prepared to deregulate the oil and gas sector to make it more attractive and beneficial to the Nigerian people.

This is even as the participants during an exercise at the opening of the retreat, blamed corruption and infrastructure for the stagnancy in the economy. Jonathan said the retreat was organised to encourage discussions, debates and partnerships between members of the private and public sectors, including the regulatory bodies.

The President hoped that these would help to secure a constructive engagement among all stakeholders to achieve the desired national economic objectives. He said: 'In the event of deregulation, this administration is committed to investing the resources in tangible infrastructure and providing social safety nets and other mechanisms to moderate the impact of the reforms on the most vulnerable segments of our society'.

To further strengthen the economy, Jonathan disclosed that the government was keen on reviewing the nation's external trade and tariff policies. He noted that 'there is no denying the need to promote our own domestic industries and protect them from unfair trade practices. We must also adopt a more responsive tariff policy that recognises the limitations of an over-extensive prohibition list.

'In this regard, we need to arrive at more effective trade and tariff policies that facilitate the creation of local businesses and jobs. We are determined to accelerate the implementation of the 48-hour ports clearance reforms, improve the efficiency of the Nigeria Customs Service and other related agencies, and reduce the incentives for smuggling,' the President said.

He listed government's proposed interventions to include revitalising key segments of the manufacturing sector; increasing capacity utilization and developing manufacturing clusters for leather, textiles and food processing; promoting housing and construction through the development of a viable mortgage system.

President Jonathan stated that in line with the government's commitment to ensure good and responsible fiscal policies, 'we are committed to maintaining the fiscal deficit at below three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the life of this administration. This would result in a deliberate and systematic reduction of domestic borrowing by government to bring it to sustainable levels. This administration is also accelerating the implementation of key trade, tariff and customs reforms mostly to improve the domestic investment environment'.

He expressed his believe that infrastructure and not corruption was the main problem hampering the development of the country stressing that 'My thinking in that direction is that a lot of money is in the private hands. The private sector in this country can really make things work. If we are waiting for the government, we wouldn't have had cell phones that is why I believe that to fix certain things, the private sector is critical.'