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Iweala calls for reduction in domestic debt profile

10 July 2012, 11:39

Abuja - The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday called for reduction in the country’s domestic debt profile.

 Okonjo-Iweala, who made the call at a consultative meeting with the Organised Private Sector and civil society organisations on Federal Government’s 2013 budget in Lagos, added that the level was worrisome.

The meeting was to get input to draw up the budget for the medium term.

 According to her, in spite of the fact that the debt ratio is reasonable, the rate at which the nation borrows is on the high side.

``Therefore, there is the need to reduce its domestic debt profile,’’ the minister said.

Okon-Iweala also said that the total wage bill had risen to N1.6 trillion because of the new minimum wage, adding that 39 per cent of capital expenditure for fiscal 2012 had not been actualised.

 She added that debt to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) ratio in domestic and foreign terms was about 17 per cent while that of states would be up to 21 per cent.

 Okonjo–Iweala said that the development was in line with the 25 per cent to 30 per cent standard set for the country.

 The minister said that borrowing at such high rate domestically had a multiplier effect on the other sectors of the economy particularly the manufacturing industry.

 She said that since she came on board, the government had been trying to decelerate the accumulation of the nation’s domestic debt in addition to working with State governments to reconcile the debts.

Okonjo-Iweala explained that one of the ways the government was using to reduce the domestic debt rate was by bringing the trajectory of borrowing down.

She said government took the decision in order to ensure that it does not continue to finance the debt.

She said that the government was planning to open a `sinking fund’ to pay off some of the nation’s domestic debt standing at N5.3 trillion from 2013 fiscal year.

 "As the nation is trying to go deeper offshore, it would also focus on more on non-oil sector for its revenue for the fiscal consolidation for medium term,’’ she said.

The Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Bright Okogu, said the philosophy of the 2013 budget would be based on fiscal consolidation.

 Okogu said that it would also have a zero base budgeting with focus on priority sectors as well as the prioritisation of ongoing projects

 "In the last seven years, there were 6,300 ongoing projects for the key 30 Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs). It will cost about N7 trillion to complete them,’’ he said.

Okogu said there would be rationalisation of agencies and that the management of the nation’s wealth should involve optimisation.

He added that other developments that would be seen in the 2013 budget include recovery of excessive claims on subsidy, blocking leakages in subsidy and cautious benchmark of oil price.



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