Government seeks quick approval of $7.9 billion External Borrowing Plan

The Federal Government has asked the National Assembly to expedite the approval process of the $7.9billion External Borrowing Plan (EBP) submitted for consideration to facilitate assistance from multilateral financial institutions.

The money will fund some on-going critical economic activities in the country.

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told visiting members of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance led by its Chairman, Abdulmumini Jubrin, in Abuja that getting the plan approved as soon as possible is very critical to the successful implementation of the 2012 budget.

Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, who doubles as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, said the medium term plan, which would be valid till 2014, is necessary to help the country get concessional credit facilities on soft terms from such financial institutions as the World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Agence Franciase de Developpement (AFD) as well as other multilateral donors agencies.

“We have put before the National Assembly as we are required to do, and I am really counting on your help to get out the borrowing plan as quickly as possible,” the minister told the lawmakers who were in the ministry as part of oversight functions.

“We hope you will let us have it as soon as possible, because a lot of things depend on it. Until the National Assembly gets it (the plan) out, all those who want to assist us with soft credit, may not be able to do so.

“Most of the credits in the borrowing plan are mostly soft credits with very low percentage of interests. Some of them are outright zero interest, but with a commitment charge. The plan is key to the country’s 2012 budget.”

Similarly, the minister said the plan also covers some bilateral credits from China and India for productive investments in such critical sectors of the economy as agriculture, water resources, power, transport, education and health, to strengthen governance at the grassroots.

On corporate tax, the minister said that a number chief executives of organizations have recently been arrested in various locations for defaulting in their tax obligations, though government is currently negotiating with some of them who are disputing the tax demand notice or the size of the tax bill they were given.

“The list of defaulters is very long. But, whenever there is a dispute, we sit down and negotiate with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and come to a conclusion. From what we have done so far, about N22 billion has been agreed as outstanding. If they refuse to pay after the agreement, then we will really go after them. We also have more than

N100 billion that is under negotiation,” she said.

The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Jubrin, had told the minister that findings from the committee’s oversight visits revealed that some revenues generated by most of the revenue agencies are not reported, adding that government needs to step up effort to prevail on such agencies to ensure that they remit all revenues to the Federation Account.

“We should redouble our efforts and ensure that whatever is due to the government is remitted,” he said. Apart from the issue of tax, we are also looking at insurance. Year after year, we budget lots of money for insurance on government property and assets. It is important to go out there and review the value of these assets that are being insured and the amount of money that is being paid as premium and see if procedures are being followed in line with laid down rules and regulations.”

Mr. Jubrin said a Bill is already in process for passage to compel all multinational companies doing business in all sectors of the economy, but not quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to do, to ensure that the country derived value for whatever the companies get from the economy.

Similarly, the Chairman said the lawmakers are currently looking at the review of the 1958 Customs Act, which has not been amend for a long time, adding that the minister needs to support the committee in its work to ensure that law is beneficial to the country.

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