The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, said on Tuesday in Abuja that massive investment in infrastructure is the surest way to get the country’s economy out of the current recession.
Mr. Udoma, who was addressing the annual forum of laureates of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, during their 9th Award Winners Lecture, said the government was looking at various strategic ways of mobilizing revenue to get the economy back on the path of sustainable growth.
The Minister said in spite of the revenue shortfalls experienced during the 2016 budget year, N753.6 billion has so far been released for capital expenditure, targeted principally at the key infrastructure development ministries, namely Power, Works and Housing, as well as Transportation.
“This, in fact, exceeds the aggregate capital expenditure budget for 2015,” Mr. Udoma added.
Justifying the priority given to infrastructure, the Minister said “there is no doubt that government-led investment in public infrastructure is one of the fastest ways to get an economy out of recession”.
Government, the minister noted, has been having difficulties funding the Budget because of the disruptions of oil production by Niger Delta militants.
Notwithstanding the current challenges, he said government must find ways to increase the level of its spending on infrastructural development.
“At one time, almost half our production was shut in, because of pipeline vandalism. This compounded our economic situation and pushed us into the current recession we are experiencing in the country. We are looking at ways to restore our revenues and get the economy out of recession and back on the path of sustainable growth,” he said.
The resultant epileptic income stream, he said also affected exchange rate stability, pointing out that this was another issue which has to be addressed if the country was to succeed in its development drive.
According to him, exchange rate stability has been a major issue the Federal Government has been grappling with as a result of the reduction in foreign exchange earnings caused by the fall in crude oil exports.
He said the Federal Government would welcome every genuine idea from experts on how to address these economic challenges, adding that he was looking forward to the various recommendations from the lecture, some of which might be directly integrated into the National Recovery and Growth Plan which is currently being tidied up.
With the implementation of some of government reforms, some strategic sectors were beginning to witness improvement, with agriculture and solid minerals recording a 4.5 per cent and 7 per cent growth respectively in the third quarter of 2016.
A development economist and one-time Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obodiah Mailafia, traced the roots of the current economic situation to dependence on a mono-cultural economy, fiscal indiscipline and delay in implementing enabling policies.
Mr. Mailafia explained that the reckless fiscal indiscipline subsequently resulted in massive dollarization of the economy which eventually snowballed into recession.