Economic hardship: FG apologises for pains experienced by Nigerians

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The Federal Government has apologised to Nigerians over the impact of its policies, noting that notwithstanding the inflation and currency problems that have hampered economic growth, the policies were necessary and already yielding results.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu, stated this yesterday at a press conference to herald President Tinubu’s one year in office.

When asked about the detrimental effects of the administration’s policies, Bagudu responded that President Tinubu had run on a platform of “Renewed Hope Agenda,” which was the result of his reflections, analysis of the nation’s past actions, and the combined experiences of many stakeholders, who supported the programme.

He said in the light of this, eight priority areas were created, with the aim of assisting the administration make decisions that ought to have been made years ago. He said: “If we don’t make these decisions, we may continue to… because the experience of the nations we compete with, or aspire to emulate, shows that they made those decisions long ago and that they were important.”

Bagudu stressed that leaders must face reality head-on, even if it involved discomfort or pain. He noted that true leadership requires telling those being led the truth about their situation.

“To address our nation’s challenges, we are implementing the Renewed Hope Agenda, which focuses on macro-economic reforms. This is necessary because low investment, low revenues, and a shrinking economy have hindered progress in various sectors, including security, education, and social welfare. Without a macro-economic environment that stimulates investment and generates revenue, we cannot effectively address these issues.

“For example, we are currently unable to produce crude oil at the levels allowed by our OPEC quota due to underinvestment in physical infrastructure and security. By prioritising macro-economic reforms, we aim to create an environment conducive to investment and growth, enabling us to tackle the pressing challenges facing our nation.”

He highlighted Nigeria’s food security challenges, emphasising the need for increased investment in the agricultural sector. He noted that most Nigerian farmers were limited to a single growing season per year due to lack of irrigation and water resources. He also commented on the fishing industry, stating that many fishing communities have been forced to relocate to freshwater bodies where fish are scarce.

The minister added that the livestock sector, which has the potential to drive economic growth, as seen in countries like New Zealand, has not been given the needed attention.  However, he said, in Nigeria, underinvestment has led to conflicts rather than economic opportunities, stressing the importance of investing in infrastructure, education, and health systems to support the country’s aspirations.

He underscored the need for strategic investments in various sectors, including the creative economy, digital economy, and steel sector, to foster sustainable development and economic growth in Nigeria.

He said: “So, the answer to all these is to restore micro-economic stability, which will ensure that investors, both domestic and international, put their faces in our economy once again, and we’re doing all these without blame games.

“One of the things that the President was very clear about is not blaming anybody. Some of these are historical, they have taken this under-investment, maybe they have been decades in the making, but the bold and courageous leader that he is, he said he was going to take them on and he apologised for the pain that they might occasion, but they were necessary.

“So, not surprisingly, exchange rate is not yet where we want it to be, inflation is not yet where we want it to be, but is our strategy, right? Absolutely. We believe our strategy is right, but it requires occasional calibration, put good money to use.

“Just this morning we were told that Mr. President has directed low-key celebration. Mr. President has also directed the government to buy CNG buses in order to support the transition to CNG and lower energy competitiveness. Mr President has directed a reduction in government travels.

“Some may mock that, but these are profound measures that go to the mindset of the leadership that we have, and as well as initiatives that have been introduced to solve legacy problems, so that everyone will have a sense of belonging. Constituent parts of Nigeria will be mobilised to give their best. We are a federation. Mr President is one of the most ardent supporters of our federalism, who supports the restoration of local governments to their place of pride in our system; state governments as necessary partners in a cooperative federalism so that we can all be better together, and for the Federal Government to put the resources we have, as challenged as we are, so that both the domestic economy and the international investors will know that we mean business. We can do it with the resources we have so that we can earn their confidence and it’s happening; agencies have acknowledged our reforms. Leaders of different countries have acknowledged our reforms.

“The three budgets he participated in; first, the N819 billion budget which he inherited was even passed into law before he came. He renegotiated with the National Assembly. He said he wanted N500 billion to fund intervention, which will support the vulnerable populations, who might be affected by the reform measures. About N200 billion went into agriculture, N75 billion into the medium and small enterprise sector, and N40 billion into the nano-credit sector.

“Equally, another budget of N2.17 trillion that went to support gains in national security, most of it to security and infrastructure and also providing more money for cash transfer and meeting commitments to Labour.

“Then, the 2024 Budget, which has two remarkable features. One, the determination, despite our challenges, to restore budget discipline by lowering fiscal deficit, so that is why the 2024 budget targeted reduction in deficits from 6.11 percent in 2023 to less than four percent in 2024 and increase in capital expenditure relative to recurrent expenditure; 39 percent expenditure, which is the highest in our history.

“In addition to innovative programmes, a N100 billion fund for consumer credit, which has taken off, designed to mobilise our manufacturing sector to produce again, a mortgage fund to support the creation of mortgages. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to accompany the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, upon the invitation of the Minister of Housing, to Karsana where Mr. President had earlier in the year, launched a 100,000 renewable housing programme across seven states, the building has advanced.

“So, we believe that with Consumer Credit mobilising the manufacturing sector, with mortgages reenergising the housing sector, and with agricultural development fund mobilising the agricultural sector, our youth and our productive economy will be mobilised.

“The N130 billion we provided for transition to CNG, which is a cheaper form of energies than petroleum, is designed to restore energy competitiveness, so that our manufacturing sector, our transport sector, and our economy will benefit from cheaper form of energy that will support the economic reform.

“We have the three million technical job programmes that the Ministry of Digital Economy is already working on to ensure that at least three million young ones are given jobs.

“But in all these, we are not blind to the fact that the reforms will hurt others more than others disproportionately and that is why, among other measures, Mr. President directed a wholesale review of the Social Investment Programmes so that it can be made to work better for the wider economy.”

The Sun

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