President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the 2015 Federal budget currently before the National Assembly for approval was prepared with the objective of deepening Nigeria’s effort to develop an economy not based on oil.
The president, who was speaking in his New Year’s Day message to Nigerians, said despite pressures on the country’s economy as a result of the continued fall in global oil prices, government had included in the budget measures to ensure that the country’s development plans and national economy were not adversely affected.
Apart from adjusting the country’s financial processes to safeguard the economy, Mr. Jonathan said steps were being taken to shield the poor and the low and medium income earners from the negative impact of declining oil prices on the economy.
Despite experiencing “the most trying circumstances” in the past four years, the president said his administration was determined to lay the foundation for a vibrant economy in 2015.
Conscious of the inherent disadvantages as a result of over-dependence on incomes from crude oil exports for national development, the president said government would focus on policies to accelerate the diversification of the country’s economic base.
The president said those policies would be aimed at promoting the expansion of the non-oil sector, which, he noted, had become a major driver of growth in the economy, growing by an average of 8 per cent in the last four years.
In addition to programmes to sustain the progress so far made in priority areas of the economy, the president said his administration would in the New year strive to promote initiatives to ensure economic stability and attract significant Foreign Direct Investment, FDI.
He said over the last four years his administration had recorded modest achievements in developing key infrastructure to facilitate the growth and expansion of the economy.
These included the rehabilitation and expansion of the country’s rail transportation network; successful privatization of the power generation and distribution systems; reforms and increased local participation in the oil and gas industry, and improved nationwide access to potable water from 57 per cent in 2010, to 70 per cent at today.
“Our national economy maintained a steady growth rate of close to seven per cent in the past four years and millions of fresh employment opportunities were created for our people as a direct consequence,” he said.
According to Mr. Jonathan, the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme, YEAP, and Fund for Agriculture Finance in Nigeria, FAFIN, launched in 2014 as part of efforts to boost agricultural production and increase food supply, would become fully operational in 2015.
While the YEAP programme would target 750,000 market-oriented young agricultural producers, the provision of government and donor-funded $100 million (about N16.8billion) for FAFIN would help fast-track the transformation of the agricultural sector.
Under FAFIN, government said affordable long-term financing would be provided to support the development of small and medium agribusinesses in the country as part of the agenda to boost agricultural production.
Another N50 billion Farm Mechanization Support Fund established by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN would take off during the year to cater for about 1,200 agricultural equipment-hiring enterprises.
To curb the impact of speculative behaviours that cause market exchange pressures on the national currency, the president said government would strive to ensure stability in the value of the Naira, by maintaining a healthy external reserves and strengthen fiscal buffers.
“We will ensure the Naira remains strong, and gives foreign investors the clarity and certainty that they need, to guide future investment decisions.
“We will continue to improve our payment systems and strengthen risk-based supervision mechanism for Nigerian banks to ensure overall health and stability of the banking system,” he said.
To boost sector-specific enterprise areas in agriculture, micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs), manufacturing, and oil and gas to enhance our aggregate supply capacity, reduce poverty, promote job creation and increase the general well-being of Nigerians, the president said government would during the year introducing a number of financial instruments.
These efforts and other measures spearheaded by relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, he pointed out, would be geared at securing Nigeria’s future and create a more prosperous country, where people live more peaceful and fulfilled lives.