The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, yesterday, told the Senate that the Federal Government can no longer reasonably employ more people into the public sector and would have to strengthen the private sector for more jobs to be created.
She further said the government would sustain its over N6trillion national budget in the 2017 appropriation bill, expected to be submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari, after the consideration and subsequent approval of the pending 2017—2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) by the National Assembly.
Adeosun said this to members of the Senate Committee on Finance, led by its Chairman, John Owan Enoh (PDP) Cross River Central, who were on an oversight visit to her ministry.
“Even when the economy was growing, when GDP was eight and nine, we had a massive unemployment problem especially our graduates. I’m sure most of us know that graduates stayed for up to ten years without jobs and the only sector that was really creating jobs was government and government now, has now has reached its limit, that a 165billion amount, I don’t think government can reasonably employ any more people so we have to develop our private sector and to do that, we need infrastructures.
“So, this government is really set about driving infrastructures and that is what we have been trying to do. Everything we have been trying to do, whether it’s been chasing ghost workers, whether it’s efficiency, it all end on one thing-creating that head road so that we can invest in infrastructures.
“We know that if you build a road, in 40 or 50 years time, it would still be there but when you go for training and you go and come back, it’s over. So, it’s a different kind of demand but we think that it’s the foundation of getting this economy moving and creating jobs for our people. So, we have embarked on that, we have been releasing capitals for roads, for power and for so many things. But we have uncovered some challenges, some of which I think we will be coming back to speak to you as a committee.
“Some of the contractors haven’t been paid since 2012, so they just sat on the money and little can they be blamed because their problem is ‘how do I know that this money I have, I would be able to get another one for the next four years.’ So, while we expect them to go back to sites, in fact, in some cases, the bank even sat on their money, didn’t even allow them access to the money at all. The inspecting activities which everybody thought would be forthcoming has not been forthcoming, we have to solve that problem. I would be coming to talk to you on what we are proposing to do.
“We believe that most people in Nigeria, whether contractors, whether…., are owed something by the federal government and we have to sit down and sort it out. The same problem with the states, they too, are claiming that they are owed, the reason why they can’t pay is that they are owed by the federal government. So we need to have a discussion, deal with the problem so that the economy can move forward.
“There’s good news on the horizon in the sense that the prediction that the oil price will be as low as $20 proved to be false alarm and the prediction now is that the oil price will stabilize between $50 and $60, so what Nigeria now has to do is to balance her books so that if it is $50, even if it is $40, we will be able to balance.
“I want to tell you that most of the initiatives have really elicited a lot of savings. We have been able to reduce our payroll. The first payroll I saw when I came here was N165billion and I think the last one I signed was N165billion, it’s going down every month. We are removing ghost workers, we are removing dead people, we are removing those who should have never been there in the first place and that is a continuous exercise we must keep up.
“Honestly, we believe that government has to be very frugal with public money money because it’s scarce and this money belongs to everybody, so we can’t spend it any how. We have to spend it judiciously. I want to really assure you that we are committed to that because we can say that if we can complete one or two major projects, this economy can change.
“We are working very hard with the Ministry of Transportation on the rail project which will bring rail back from Lagos to Kano. That corridor will open up our agriculture, instead of carrying goods on the roads.
“We believe this will create a lot of jobs for our people. Similarly, we are working with the Ministry of Works for our new major road projects including looking at how we can maybe get some private sector money so that we can do some tar roads because we believe that when somebody spends five hours on the road, on a journey that should take one hour, he has already paid the toll, whether is not in terms of his tyre, or his petrol or his time or his health.
“So, if you ask that person to pay N200 and do that journey in 50 minutes, I don’t think Nigerians would have a problem. What we want is infrastructures.
“We have gotten together another public private initiative – the Family Homes Fund, which is private sector driven and the aim of that fund is to find a finances solution to housing development for low cost housing. Most of the houses are around N700 million or less and people will be able to put down just ten percent and park in and then pay the rest over up to 20 years under mortgage system.
“I want to tell you that I remain very confident about our economy. By this time next year, this economy will become a different economy. Just think within, don’t lose heart, we are going to be able to turn around the economy because now, the oil price is stable, we have stabilized our finances, a lot of the waste has stopped. A lot of the stealing has also stopped so it’s only for us now to start completing some projects.”
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