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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I won’t resign, Okonjo-Iweala says, as Governors’ Forum wants her out


Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala suggested calls for her resignation were political.
Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Wednesday dismissed calls for her immediate resignation from office over her alleged refusal to comply strictly with Federal Government revenue projections in violation of the 2013 Appropriation Act.
Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, had said at the end of of the Forum’s meeting on Tuesday that the decision by the minister to entrust the constitutional responsibility of managing the country’s economy on the Economic Management Team constituted by the Presidency, rather than the National Economic Council, was a violation of the provisions of the Act.
But, responding to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on whether she was considering complying with the demands by the governors, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said that was not part of her immediate plans, as she was too busy working to ensure the economy served Nigerians better.
“That (resignation) doesn’t arise at all,” the Minister said. “You know I’m not here to address those kinds of issues. I’m Minister of Finance for the country. I’m working with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and I just do my job. I’m not here to address such issues. From time to time, I call you (reporters) to share with you what is happening in the economy. That’s what I am doing. So, I’m not answering to that. And as you see me here, do I look any close to resignation? I de Kampe!
“Don’t worry about that. You know we shouldn’t talk about political issues here.What I want to tell you is that the economy must be managed to the good of Nigerians. We are not going to be involved in any political thing. Let’s face facts of the economy – about roads built; agricultural jobs created; increase in production and things we are doing that you can go and check for yourself,” she said.
While reviewing the performance of the economy, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the economy was doing reasonably well, though not perfect yet, adding that the realities on the ground attest to that, with 2.5 million seasonal and full-time jobs created in the agricultural sector alone, involving nine commodity chains, including cassava, sorghum, oil palm, cotton, cocoa, dry and rainy season rice.
The minister said that some of the commodity production have helped in moderating prices of food items in the market, such as beans and yam, adding that government aims to create more jobs in that sector and others in the economy.
She said government was also doing well in the area of manufacturing, with ongoing specific investments in petrochemicals and fertilizer, to help create jobs, while the community services scheme for the unskilled being run on the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) has created 178,000 jobs, in addition to over 2,000 beneficiaries under the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) for graduates and 19,000 jobs from the YOU-WIN programme.
On the fuel subsidy payment regime, she said the system had been audited and cleaned up, resulting in significant reduction in the amount being paid out to marketers from N2.3 trillion to about N950 billion, with the expectation that government would pay about N971 billion this year. Another tranche of the payment to petroleum marketers, she said, would be disbursed on Thursday.
In addition to these achievements, the minister said the fundamentals of the economy remained strong, with the country’s foreign reserves currently standing at about $46 billion, consisting of an Excess Crude Account (ECA) balance of over $5 billion, while inflation rate had remained at single digits at about 8.7 per cent and exchange rate relatively stable within a band of N155 and N160 to the dollar.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate, she said, was still at about 6.5 per cent in the first quarter, and 6.18 per cent in the second quarter, while fiscal deficit is about 1.85 per cent of GDP, indicating that government was maintaining prudent management of the economy.
The minister said the prudent management of the economy had generated sufficient confidence for investors, particularly among the governors, most of whom, she said, believed so much in the performance of the economy that they were floating bonds to help fund various development programmes in their domains.
“If one does not have confidence in the management of the economy, one would not float bonds. One can only float bonds in an economy that works. We have a list of nine states that have recently floated bonds in the Nigerian Stock market. We have more applications from other state governments pending. This is a total mark of confidence in the economy and its management. I am glad to say that we have a good relationship with the governors, and will continue to work with them,” the minister said.
PremiumTimes

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