By Sony Daniel, Northern Region Editor
As tempers flare across the country over claims that the federal government is planning to sell of its core assets as a means of bailing the country out of recession, the Federal Government has said that no final decision has been taken on the matter.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Dome Udo Dome, made the clarification while declaring open the 57th Nigerian Economic Society Annual Conference, in Abuja.
Dome confirmed however that the Economic Management Team had been working to put together a stimulus package to be raised from concessioning, advance payment for licence renewals, use of recovered funds and some asset sales.
The minister said the government was still open to contributions and is looking forward to receiving the recommendations from the conference as to how government could deepen and broaden the reforms being embarked upon, and aimed at restructuring the Nigerian economy and changing it for good
The Minister said, “This is still being worked upon and is yet to be finalized, or submitted to FEC for consideration. To achieve this speedily we are working to fast-track procedures through Presidential directives and legislation.
“As an example of the kind of funds we can generate from concessioning, we have a major company that has made a proposal to spend US$2 billion on the revamping of the existing railway line from Lagos to Kano and from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
Udoma urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the economy but to use the current economic crisis as an opportunity to make major structural changes needed to change the country’s economy for good.
Senator Udoma said: “We must use this crisis to introduce measures that will truly diversify the Nigerian economy by ensuring that the non-oil sector generates enough foreign currency earnings to drive the economy even without any crude oil earnings.
“Government must use this crisis as an opportunity to promote broader macroeconomic and structural reform so as to mitigate supply-side constraints and diversify the productive and revenue base of the economy.”
The Minister said Government’s plans to achieve all these are contained in the Strategic Implementation Plan, which will be expanded into a more comprehensive medium and long term plan, as a successor plan to the country’s Vision 20:2020 Plan.
“The Federal Government has been working with State Governments, through the National Economic Council, to engender alignment of policies.
“We also organized a retreat with them to share ideas, information and knowledge. We have also been reaching out to the private sector, to academia, to professional
bodies, to civil society and other stakeholders”.
“As part of efforts in this direction, government is currently collaborating with the private sector to launch a “Made in Nigeria” campaign, with the intension of encouraging quality production and massive consumption of Made in Nigeria goods and services.
“We should encourage the branding of Nigerian products by self-regulatory industry bodies such as wine makers have in France. ‘Made in Nigeria’ should become a badge of quality. As the quality of our goods and services improve, both local and international demand for them will increase.
According to him, high local demand will give Nigerian producers the platform to explore the export market.
“There is no doubt that one of the fastest routes to grow our economy and to create jobs for our teeming population is by pursuing export-led growth. This strategy also holds high promise for adding to our foreign reserves and further stabilizing the Naira.”
“We are convinced that this is capable of delivering desired results and potentials for exports to increase foreign exchange earnings and shore up foreign reserves”, he added.
Speaking after being conferred with the Fellowship of the NES, the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina dispelled the speculation that Nigeria is in debt crisis, insisting that Nigeria still remains the
strongest economy in Africa.
While admitting that Nigeria has a revenue problem, he nonetheless said that Nigeria is a very resilient country and has a very resilient economy, which is why the AfDB will continue to support its growth aspirations.
He applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for securing the country’s borders noting that without secure borders, a country’s economy cannot thrive.
With appreciable success recorded in the security sector, Dr Adesina said government should also give dedicated attention to the economy. He said revamping the economy as it is at present would require tough decisions and therefore challenged the economists to provide evidence-based data to support government in its efforts to grow the economy.
He pledged the bank’s support for rehabilitation efforts in the North East of Nigeria and an additional support for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.