Minister of Finance, and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was delegated by President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, laid the 2015 budget estimates of about N4.3 trillion before both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

According to her, ”I’ve laid the budget on behalf of his Excellency, Mr President. This budget is based on few indicators, the $65 a barrel benchmark and we are going to stick to it for now despite of the declining prices because we feel the average price next year will be around $65 to $70. She also revealed that the budget was anchored on diversification of the economy.

According to her, “The production level is 2.27 million barrel per day. The revised growth rate based on the new parameters for the country, down from 6.35 to 5.5 percent next year, that is still one of the fastest growth rate we are experiencing in the world today.”

We have a budget expenditure of about N4.3 trillion, revenue of N3.6 trillion, we’ve tried to make up for the drop from $78 per barrel to $65 by raising non-oil revenues. This budget points to the fact that this country is a non-oil country and I think we want Nigerians to start to think of the country that way.”

“We have worked very hard with the guidance of Mr President to move on non-oil revenues, so we’ve closed many loopholes and leakages, we’ve tried to broaden the tax-base, we’ve speeded up audit, we’ve closed some exemptions. All of these will bring additional revenues into the coffers.

“We’ve also worked on the expenditures. On the expenditure side, in the short term, we are going to look at the administrative expenditure, equipment we will not be able to buy next year, travels and trainings will only be inside the country just on exceptional bases if someone is paying for you, you will be able to go out or if it is a critical government directive to go out”.

“It s not going to be easy on the short term to do so much because we want to make sure that people get their salaries and wages and pensions are paid. We don’t want to make any adjustments on the part of our pensioners and workers but in the longer term we will now be able to look at how to restructure governance”.

Iweala at an interview session with journalists after laying the budget before the Senate said the economic diversification would be achieved by the Federal Government by shifting from the oil sector to aggressive revenue generation through taxes.

“The 2015 budget seeks to protect the average Nigerian because it was packaged to focus on the diversification of the economy”, she explained.

She expressed optimism that the strategy would work because food prices had not risen in spite of the depreciation of the naira.

“If you check all around the markets, you will observe that the average Nigerian is still enjoying stable food prices. In some places like Enugu, the prices of gaari have even fallen.

“Inflation rate as estimated by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has fallen from 8.1 to 7.9 percent. This budget really focuses on moving us to diversify economy and raise non oil revenue.

“We have made up for the fall of $13 per barrel, by raising non oil revenue through various types of taxes and policies. The surcharge on luxury goods is there, plus additional tax efforts to close leakages in revenue”, she added.

Meanwhile, the Senate President, David Mark, has pledged that the upper chamber would consider the appropriation bill within two days on resumption but urged the various committees to work on the document even while on vacation.

Also, Senators Phillip Aduda and Joshua Dariye, have assured members of the public that the various committees would expedite action on the passage of the 2015 budget despite the political activities in their various constituencies.

Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma – Egba, while moving the motion for the adjournment till January 13, 2015 said the idea was to enable senators participate effectively in the political activities ahead of next year general election. [Mynewswatchtimesng]


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