Sell assets first before borrowing, NESG tells FG

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’Femi Asu

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group, on Thursday, said the Federal Government should sell some national assets before going ahead to borrow money in a bid to get the country out of its first recession in 25 years.

The NESG, a private sector think-tank and policy advocacy group, also stressed the need for a market-driven economy, with increased participation of the private sector.

The Federal Government had disclosed in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that it would achieve the privatisation of the power plants built under the National Integrated Power Project scheme, and reduce its stakes in Joint Venture oil assets, refineries and other downstream subsidiaries such as pipelines and depots.

The ERGP, a medium-term plan for 2017 to 2020, released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, stated that the government’s stakes in other oil and non-oil assets would be significantly reduced.

Commenting on the economic plan at an interactive media session in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer, NESG, Mr. ‘Laoye Jaiyeola, said, “It is something that we have talked about even before now that government needs to have a well-coordinated and articulated plan. So, we are glad that following #NESG22, a concerted work was done to put it together.

While describing government’s projection of 2.19 per cent economic growth this year as a step in the right direction, he said the NESG had forecasted that growth would not be more than 0.65 per cent.

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“It is the consistency of the policy and your focus at doing things that really matter,” he said, stressing the need for quick release of funds into the economy.

Decrying the delay in the passage of the budget, Jaiyeola said, “Some of us have expected the budget to have been done and dusted now. The growth may be less than one per cent because the time it takes for policy to roll into action is wasted,”

He said the move by the government to get more private sector involvement and improve the ease of doing business in the country resonated with the NESG.

On the planned sale of some national assets, he said, “Before they announced it, it was on the table. NESG had submitted that to them long ago. Our view is that if only we can run the NLNG model in all of our JVs, Nigeria will be better.

“We believe strongly that there are some of our assets that we can raise money from and should be the first way of raising money rather than going to borrow. Government must begin to let their assets work for them, and this is what NESG thinks. We have told them, we believe in it, we support it, and it is something they should do.”

Also speaking, the Chairman of the Board, NESG, Mr. KyariBukar, described the objectives of the economic plan as fantastic, saying there was a need for monetary, fiscal and trade policies to align.

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“The implementation matters a great deal. The problem in Nigeria is implementation,” he added.

Last year, the National Economic Council, which comprises Vice-President YemiOsinbajo and the 36 state governors, endorsed plans by the Federal Government to sell some national assets as part of efforts to address the current economic recession in the country.

The sale of national assets was said to be one of the recommendations of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator UdoUdoma, during the NEC meeting.

But the organised labour, including the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, kicked against the move, warning the Federal Government to reject the recommendations to sell the country’s assets.

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