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Buhari yet to receive amended budget details from National Assembly – Presidency

By The Citizen
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President Muhammadu Buhari is still expecting the corrected version of the 2016 budget details from the National Assembly, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has disclosed.

The minister disclosed this on Wednesday while briefing State House reporters on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Ahmed, however, expressed the optimism that the legislature would transmit the document to the president either later today or tomorrow.

The minister noted that the executive and the legislature had worked very hard to review the details of the budget.

She said: “And it (the budget) is at its final stage. So, maybe between today and tomorrow, the ‎National Assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the president.”

Ahmed also disclosed that the Federal Executive Council discussed the strategic implementation plan for the yet-to-be signed budget.

She said the council was discussed key economic activities needed to undertake to ensure that the purpose for which the 2016 budget was made was realised.

The minister noted that the purpose of the budget was to stimulate the economy, create jobs as well as support the poor and the vulnerable.

According to her, 34 strategic priority programmes and projects were presented with clear deliverables, targets and indicators to ensure that Ministries, Departments and Agencies deliver on implementation.

She said the 34 specific areas were grouped into four major objectives including policy, governance and security; diversification of the economy; creating support for the poor and the vulnerable: as well as reflecting the economy through investment.

Ahmed, who said the priority projects were approved for implementation, stated that her ministry had been given responsibility to track and report on quarterly basis to the council on the performance of the key priority areas.

‎According to the minister, the 34 priority areas needed to be implement in 2016‎ are categorised into six thematic areas.

She said: “There is policy, governance and security and one item from there is to achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 percent in an annual basis starting from 2016. The objective of doing that is to reflect the economy and enhance employment generation capacity for the productive sector. Another area is to achieve an appropriate exchange regime. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is leading this particular action. The objective is to achieve a predictable exchange rate by the end of 2016.

“There is also a target for us to increase low interest lending to the real sector; the focus is to achieve an interest rate that is single digit maybe nine percent and the purpose is to increase output and growth. Again, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, along with CBN, are taking action on this. We also have a target to maintain a stable debt management strategy so that we can ‎optimise the local and foreign debts that we have; and the Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office will be taking action on this.

“On the thematic ‎area of diversifying the economy, we plan to implement measures to achieve self-sufficiency and become a net export of certain number of agricultural produce the first one being rice. We plan to attain self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018, in tomato paste 2016 and also increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock. The deadline for these will be announced later in the year. The Ministry of Agriculture is still trying to work out details. It means we will stop importing and we will get to a point when we will start exporting.

“We also have plans to expand the agro- allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesemi seeds and the Agriculture Ministry is also leading in that area. There is also plan to make use of 5,000 hectares arable land ‎in 12 River Basin Development Authorities and to utilise 22 dams  for commercial farming by prospective investors and the objective is to extend farming so that it can become and all year round activity and that there is productivity all year round.

“There is a plan to implement a road map  to increase pri‎vate sector investment in tourism, sports and the objective is to increase investment in the service sector thereby increase job creation and youth employment.

“The power, rails and road ‎is also a very important priority area. There is a number of specific activities; but one of them is to optimise up to 7,000 megawatts installed capacity and to ensure the associated infrastructure to ensure we transmit and distribute this capacity in the maximum operational level that is obtainable and also to conclude the privatisation NIPP plants and improve management and performance of TSA. The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is leading in this regard. The target deliverables is to increase the availability of power thereby enhancing investment,  productivity and employment and business growth in our country”.

The minister said there was also the priority objective of resolving all issues on ‎gas pricing.

She said the government also planned to conclude the road map development in order to increase investment and gas supply to the oil industry.

She added: “There is also plans to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta ‎railway lines in 2016.”

She said the government was also revising the National Rail Master Plan “which is commencing construction of the Lagos – Kano standard Gauge Rail line and also to finalize the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line. Of course the objective of this is to increase availability of mass transist, to relief pressure on road infrastructure. The federal ministry of transport is leading in this regard working, in collaboration with Ministries of Finance and National Planning to ensure the required funding is availed for this project.”

The minister said there was also a plan to undertake the rehabilitation and construction of 31 major projects and restore the degraded sections of some major high ways and improve connectivity over a distance of 210,093 kilometres through public works maintenance, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other interventions.

“The fourth thematic area which is oil and gas reforms. One of the key objectives is to adopt and execute a comprehensive national oil and gas policy which is suppose to be the road map for the petroleum industry development diversification as well as privization and also to adopt and execute a road map for the stoppage of gas flaring in our country”, she said.

Ahmed also said the government was setting a three-year deadline to achieve self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products‎ and to become a net exporter of petroleum products.

“The objective of this is to increase domestic supply of refined products and to reduce demand on foreign exchange for importing refined products in our country. The ministry of petroleum is pushing this,” Ahmed stated

The minister said there was also a plan to push for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in conjuction with the National Assembly.

“Nigeria has been classified as one of the countries that are very poor in terms of ease of doing business. So we have a target to move 20 places up the ranking from 169 to 149. We’re going to do this by implementing a number of measures specifically targeted at fasttracking business approvals, acquisition of land titles, issuance of visas for persons seeking to come into our country and do business.

“The sixth area is the investment in the lives of our people by implementing various social projects covering health, education and the essence is to bring succour to the poor and vulnerable to achieve the targets set by the Social Protection Policy which is ‎currently under production. Almost every ministry has a role to play in this”, she stated.

The minister also disclosed that the government planned to rehabilitate 5,000 primary health centers in 5,000 wards this year.

According to her, the objective is to deliver affordable health care services to Nigerians as close as possible to their homes.

She emphasised that by planning to move towards a predictable exchange rate, the government not planning to devalue the naria.

“The CBN and the money policy committee is working on this and will be concluded and made available to the country to enable users be able to predict the exchange rate at any point in time”, she stated. - Daily Trust.