Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Against the backdrop of criticisms on the rate of borrowing by the Federal Government, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, declared that the rate of borrowing for an economy with a Gross Domestic Products ( GDP) of N142 trillion is not high, saying that posterity will judge the government if the funds are not used to build infrastructure.
The minister said this while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of the two-day 26th Nigerian Economic Summit (26thNES) in Abuja.
“The loans are to be able to build roads, build rail and build power. It is either we borrow and build them now and improve the business environment so that businesses can invest here, grow and pay taxes or we sit back and say until we are able to afford it, then we will do it. So, the choice is, it is either we build our infrastructure now or we wait until we have enough money to build our infrastructure. We made the choice to invest in infrastructure which means borrowing. We believe that these are the investments that will pay back. Posterity will judge us because we are making sure that the borrowing will actually apply to build major infrastructure that is critical to the development of our economy” the minister, swore.
She, however, noted that the problem the government was having was how to increase revenue to be able to pay back the loan, adding that to solve the problem of revenue, the government planned to block the revenue leakages and cut down on costs.
“I want to restate that the level of borrowing in Nigeria as an economy that is having a GDP of N142 trillion is not high. What we have is a revenue problem. I wish people will shift their attention to the problem that we are having, which is revenue,” Ahmed noted.
The Chairman of NESG, Mr Asue Igbodalo, said that the important thing is not the borrowing but what the money is used for.
“Like the minister said, we should try and rev up our revenues and we need to look at that. But the key is always what we use the money for.
“Secondly is public-private partnerships where we don’t really need to borrow but we use more of private partnership funding to develop infrastructure. I think what just needs to happen is a bit more clarity around the regulatory framework. Once we have more clarity, we can build roads in partnership; we can build dams, bridges, power stations in partnership.