By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Abuja—The nation’s foreign reserve currently stands at $38 billion, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed yesterday.
Speaking at the Public Affairs Forum, in Abuja, the minister said the economy was stable and the Gross Domestic product, GDP, was growing at over 6 per cent in spite of the challenges facing the nation.
Her words, “One of the key things I want to tell you is that we have tried to keep this economy stable under this administration. All these things you are seeing- the investments in roads, the investments in industries cannot happen if your economy lacks stability.
“If you wake up worrying about inflation; if you wake up worrying about exchange rate, you know Nigerians watch the exchange rate every single day. If you wake up worrying about no growth then you cannot even talk about investing in the sector.
“So the number one task that every government delivers in every country- America, UK, Nigeria- is stability. One thing you have to say for the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is that it has been able to deliver on macro-economic stability for the past three years.
“The exchange rate, yes, it has gone up and down, it fluctuates, but it has been relatively stable. The inflation rate has come down from about 12 per cent last year to about 8.5 per cent. The reserves are at $38 billion today and enough to cushion us for 5 months. We have been able to put a little more into the Excess Crude Account”.
The minister described Nigeria’s fiscal deficit as “one of the lowest in the world- just over 1 per cent of GDP”, adding that many countries, even in Europe, run fiscal deficits of between 5 to 10 per cent.
On borrowing , she noted that Nigerians voiced their objections to large borrowing and that as such the President Goodluck Jonathan administration decided to maintain a low debt profile.
“By 2010, we borrowed N1.3 trillion to help finance our spending. We determined under the president who said Nigerians don’t want borrowing, let’s bring it down. Today do you know what our borrowing is, N571 billion. We will continue to take it down, even if it is by N1, we will continue trending down. The debt stock is very high because of past borrowing but will continue to bring it down. That means we must be prudent in the way we spend and we must also be very fast to try to organize additional revenues”.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said that the nation was too dependent on oil revenue and that with the falling oil price in the international market, coupled with declining crude oil production, expanding the non-oil revenue base had become inevitable.
Her words, “We are too depending on oil. The price of oil is now coming down. The quantities are also not as large as they used to be. So we have to plan differently. That is why we have to rely more on non-oil.”
“I am convinced that this economy can generate additional $ 3 billion that can help us finance our expenditures”.
She pointed out that Nigeria has a big responsibility, not just for itself but for the whole West African Sub-region and the entire African continent.
“We form 77 per cent of west African GDP, we form 25 per cent of Africa’s GDP. It means that if things don’t work well in Nigeria, a quarter of the African GDP is affected”, she said, adding, “that is why this administration is not only thinking of what we will deliver here but how to be a responsible African citizen and global citizen in the way it delivers for its home people”.
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