Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Contrary to the advice to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar warning the Federal Government against foreign borrowings for anything other than essential needs in the proposed 2021 budget, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Monday stated the government was in the process of accessing a fresh $750 million World Bank loan to support state governments, stimulate the nation’s local economy, and support vulnerable household consumption.
The minister disclosed this at the inauguration ceremony of the Federal Steering and Technical Committees of Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic stimulus (N-CARES) recently, in Abuja.
According to her, the loan is part of windows of opportunities to mitigate the effect of COVID-19. She maintained that the diverse and severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic had continued to be felt across the world with significant consequences on informal businesses, households that survive on daily income and the peasant farmers who depend on their farm produce to survive.
“This key population makes up of over 60 per cent of our entire population in Nigeria hence the need to cushion the effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable sectors through the provision of palliatives and stimulus package” she added.
Ahmed noted that the Federal Government had created several windows of interventions as captured in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 30, 2020.
She added that among other things, the ESP was to respond robustly and appropriately to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to identify fiscal measures to enhance oil and non-oil government revenues and reduce non-essential spending.
In a statement, she also pointed out that the Steering Committee made up of carefully selected ministers and permanent secretaries and the technical committee, that included directors of key Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs), had to be in place to ensure that the implementation of the N-CARES in line with Federal Government’s priorities, as outlined in the Economic Sustainability Plan.
“The major role of the Federal Steering Committee would be to provide an overall policy direction for the implementation of N-CARES programme and advise the president appropriately, while the Federal Technical Committee would be responsible for the programme oversight, overall guidance, support, co-ordination, strategic direction, review and approval of the annual work programme as well as budget for the Federal CARES Support Unit (FCSU).”