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Udoma Udo Udoma, minister of budget and national planning, has announced that the focus of the federal government second tenure will be on job creation as more work need to be done in ensuring a more stabilized economy.
The minister giving account of his stewardship of the ministry at the End-of-Tenure Press Conference in Abuja on Tuesday, said that a lot has been done in the last three and half years but more need to be done especially in ensuring job creation for youths.
“We have done a lot in this tenure to achieve the key mandates of this Ministry which include preparing the annual budgets as well as the medium-term expenditure frameworks, rendering policy advice to the Federal Government on all aspects of national development, amongst others, however, the focus of the next level will be on job creation, we will concentrate more on the part of the economy that will create jobs”.
Speaking further, the minister said that efforts were put in place to ensure that the Budget Office was properly integrated as part of the Ministry by adopting the zero-based approach for budget preparation, which required justification of every budget item for funds allocation.
He explained that the online budget preparation was introduced to ensure that the identity of any person inputting any budget item can be ascertained adding that it has improved the integrity of the budget.
“Most importantly, we were able to ensure that our executive budget proposals are aligned with the strategic policies of government as set out in the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, and other governmental programmes and plans”.
The minister speaking on the measures adopted to address the economic decline in 2016 said that the initiatives included: the introduction of an expansionary budget in the 2016 fiscal year which was christened, the Budget of Change adding that the budget was designed to reflate the economy and stimulate economic activity.
“The first initiative was the introduction of an expansionary budget in 2016 fiscal year, christened The budget of Change. The budget was accompanied by a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), which set out a number of initiatives and strategies to boost production and restore growth to the economy”.
“We followed this up with the development of a comprehensive Medium-Term Plan – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), 2017-2020 – with the broad of objectives of restoring growth, investing in the people and building a globally competitive economy”.
According to him, the ERGP aims to address the country’s economic challenges and lay the foundation for economic diversification and growth with a core vision of ensuring a sustained, inclusive and diversified growth. “The initiatives of the Plan are directed at attaining structural economic transformation. The objective of the Plan is, simply put, to boost national productivity so as to improve the quality of life of all Nigerians,” he added.
He further explained that some of the measures being implemented under the ERGP include the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Efficiency Unit within the Ministry of Finance, the Whistle Blowing Policy, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, the Integrated Payroll Personnel System (IPPIS) and the Investors’ and Exporters’ Foreign Exchange window by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He said that number of bodies have been set up to help in the implementation of the ERGP, which include the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council as well as the Social Investment Programme, Anchor Borrowers’ scheme, the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), the Road Trust Scheme, amongst others.
“An important strategy we embarked on in order to exit recession was to seek to reflate the economy. This was why we increased the capital budget. We increased budgetary allocations to capital expenditure – from 16.1% in 2015 to 30.2% in 2016, 31.7% in 2017, 31.5% in 2018 and 26% in 2019 – with priority given to the key execution priorities of the ERGP”.
“We were also able to increase our capital releases. The Ministry of Finance was able to release, for capital spending, the sum of N1.2 trillion under the 2016 Budget, the sum of N1.58 trillion under the 2017 Budget and, as at 8th May,2019, the sum of N1.55 trillion has been released under the 2018 Budget”.
According to the minister, the implementation of the ERGP resulted in the economy exiting recession in the second quarter of 2017 adding that the economy is returning subsequently to the path of growth with most economic indices showing positive momentum as the latest GDP numbers as released by the NBS shows a first quarter growth of 2.01 percent.
“This performance in the first quarter 2019 is the strongest first quarter performance since 2015. Starting the year with a GDP growth rate of 2.01% is encouraging because the first quarter of the year often records the slowest growth in GDP. The first quarter 2019 result is also encouraging given the fact that this was an election period.”
“As you are well aware, both domestic as well as foreign investors tend to be a little cautious when elections are imminent. This cautious investor sentiment normally impacts negatively on growth. Having successfully emerged from the elections, we expect a post-election dividend as confidence is restored,” he added.
Speaking further, the minister stressed on the focus labs which was implemented as part of the ERGP adding that the Labs brought together potential investors to meet with government officials to seek to remove many of the bureaucratic constraints to investment.
“The idea is to identify critical areas where growth can be accelerated through the identification of Entry Point Projects (EPP), this first set of Focus Labs was conducted in Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas. The conduct of the Labs has led to some quick wins for the country including the establishment of Nigeria’s first Gold Refinery in Ogun State