By AMAKA ABAYOMI
The Federal Government has announced an import substitution programme which would help the nation achieve production of crops and goods for consumption and export.
Speaking at the Debt Management Office organized interactive session with the Organised Private Sector, Aganga said government is taking steps to ensure that Nigeria becomes an export dependent country and that a 4_year target has been set to achieve the set plans.
“Government is working on the import substitution programme that would see us become an export dependent country rather than depending on imports.
“We have oil but spend a lot of money importing petroleum products, we have gas flaring all over the place but we spend a lot of money importing fertilizers, there is over 68 million hectares of land that can be cultivated for farming but we are yet to cultivate half of that but still import food.”
Speaking on ‘Government’s Initiatives Towards Creating Opportunities for Corporates to Access Stable Capital’, Aganga said 8 companies have expressed interests in setting up fertilizer plants in the country while 3 firms have proposed to set up oil refineries.
“With these companies setting u fertilizer plants, we hope to become a major exporter of fertilizer in the nearest future and that would save the country billions of naira that would have been used to import the fertilizer.
“Incentives have been planned for 16 economic sectors that would help boost their business and operating environment but we would focus on food production because it has been identified for development and can the country about $3bn annually in external reserves.
“331 firms have expressed interest to invest in the power generation and distribution and the Federal Government has identified 65 infrastructure projects in the areas of ports, roads and rail system, among others, for development.”
Aganga said the on_going fiscal reforms, innovations in the budgeting system, development of the real economy, proposed establishment of the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) are aimed at facilitating the achievement of the development targets.
“The diversification of our revenue base, enhancement of the quality of spending and the strengthening of institutions would help in achieving our goals. Local development financial institutions such as the Bank of Agriculture, the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) and the Bank of Industry (BoI) are undergoing restructuring to ensure that they overcome the challenges associated with financing critical economic sectors.”
Commenting on depletion of the foreign reserve from $42bn in 2008 to $32bn in 2010, the Minister of Finance said it is the sacrifice the country has to make to maintain stability in the exchange rate.
“These consistent deficits could have been taken care of either from borrowing or drawing from our savings or reserves but we decided to do a combination of both, and the latter has resulted in an unavoidable depletion of the reserves.
“External debt is $4.59bn while domestic debt is N4.55trn but this doesn’t call for concern as the ratios of both external and domestic debts to gross domestic debt (GDP) for the country are lower when compared with other countries.”