Thursday, September 19, 2013

I won’t resign, by Okonjo-Iweala

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said yesterday, that she was not contemplating resignation and will concentrate on her job of managing the nation’s economy for the common good of Nigerians.

The G-7 governors who are opposed to the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led People’s Democratic Party, PDP, had on Tuesday called for the resignation of the minister, considered as one of the most valuable members of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala made her stand on the issue known at a briefing where she gave a score card on the performance of the economy.

The minister who was asked by newsmen whether or not she would resign as demanded by the governors had this to say: “That doesn’t arise. I am not here for those kind of issues. I am Minister of Finance for the country. I am working with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and I will just do my job.

“This (briefing) is not to address that kind of issue. All of you are Finance correspondents and I call you from time to time to have this kind of press conference and I share with you what is happening in the economy. That is what I am doing. So I am not answering that and as you see me here do I look any close to resignation? I dey kampe.”

“We should stop talking about political issues here. The economy should be managed for the good of Nigerians. That is why we are here. Let’s face facts of the economy. I have given you facts about the economy. I have given you roads built; agric jobs created, increase in production, you can go and check for yourself so that we can focus on facts.”

The minister urged the governors to be objective and consistent in their evaluation of the economy, as according to her, the fact that many of them had gone and still going to the capital market to raise funds through bond issue was a demonstration of their confidence in the nation’s economy.

“The confidence in the economy has been aptly demonstrated and I want to thank the governors many of them who have demonstrated their confidence in the management of this economy and the performance of this economy. Their confidence has been demonstrated by their applications and actions to float bonds.

“Nine states have recently floated bonds, with more applications pending. It is a total mark of confidence that states are able to float bonds. If you don’t have confidence in an economy, you can’t float bonds. You can only float bonds in an economy that works. If you float a bond in an economy that is not doing well, nobody will touch it. There will be no takers. If the economy is not doing well, who will invest in those bonds? That cannot happen anywhere in the world. The governors have demonstrated confidence in the economy. It is just that they should be consistent in what they say.

“It is to the credit of this administration that the Federal Government has created a yield curve, meaning we have created the ability within the economy and the confidence within the economy for both our corporate and the states to borrow from the capital market”, she said.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala appealed to the governors to ensure that the funds raised from the capital market were managed in such a prudent manner as to ensure value for money in the provision of infrastructure in such states.

The minister stated that there had been shortfall in revenue owing to drop in oil production but that things being managed in a prudent manner and as such in spite of the shortfalls the government had continued to pay its bills because of the prudent management by the administration.

“That is not to say that we don’t have our challenges. We have never shied away from talking about that. That is not to say that from time to time they may not be shortfalls which we will make up and continue along the way.

“Even a person managing a household, knows that from time to time, it could come that there could be a month when you have a bit of cash crunch. School fees might come or some other payments and you might feel a little squeeze but then you pull through and continue.

“We have enough resource to manage the nation’s economy and the economy is being prudently managed. And any time that squeeze comes we have also made provision to take care of it. That is why we have not asked anyone to come and help us manage our economy”, the minister said.

2014 Budget

Answering a question for an insight into next year’s budget, the minister said her team was still in the middle of its preparation but that it would be a prudent budget to reflect the global economic realities.

She said that the nation must brace up to preparing for a time where it must stop depending on oil resources as its economic mainstay, given the various oil discoveries made in recent times.

Her words, “we are still in the middle of preparing the 2014 budget but I can tell you this: we will have a very prudent budget because Nigeria is in a global environment. We have to watch the global environment. All over the world oil is being discovered. You have heard of the Shale oil and gas discoveries. Only last week, it was reported that an Australian company has discovered oil even in the arctic.

“I believe that the country has to prepare itself so that it does not get caught unawares. We don’t want to be caught off-guard. That is what other countries are doing. We don’t want to be the very optimistic and then get caught off-guard.

“In 2014, money will be channeled to ease areas that are bottlenecks to the economy”.

On the situation in the power sector, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that $2.2 billion has been realized from the sale of the generation and distribution companies. According to her the receipts would enable the Federal Government to clear all outstanding terminal benefits of the staff before the handover of the companies to the private investors.

Oil marketers to be paid today

The minister disclosed that oil marketers whose supplies have been verified would be paid today. She also said that the September salaries of federal civil servants were paid yesterday, as a demonstration that the economy was doing well as bills were being promptly paid.

According to her, N850 billion capital vote has been released in the last three quarters, with almost the entire figure cash-backed to enable contractors whose works have been certified to get paid without undue delay.

She said that the administration was pursuing an aggressive job creation programmes through various schemes in agriculture, SURE-P, and even sector manufacturing. She added that the housing sector would soon witness an unprecedented boost in job creation and home ownership through the mortgage re-finance scheme to be launched in November.

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