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NASS leadership meets executive on proposed budget review

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The National Assembly’s leadership alongside a couple of ministers and heads of Federal Government agencies met to discuss the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

Among the subjects considered were the planned review of the 2020 budget, and Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, passed last year by the National Assembly

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The meeting according to Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President, was arranged to “discuss the proposed review of the 2020 budget and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.”

Mr Lawan further said “If we have to review the budget itself, we have to consider the MTEF/FSP. Even in sickness, we need government to provide services. The impact of COVID-19 is well known to all of us in terms of health and the economy.

“Here, we will be talking of revenues that we estimated to fund the budget 2020. Because the oil price has gone so low due to the impact of COVID-19, the Minister of State should be able to tell us where we will be in the next six months or so.

“We should have concepts that can deliver fast and are sustainable. Anything that we do that cannot provide succor and relief to our people will lead to catastrophe,” the Senate President warned.”

The Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila observed that the meeting was appropriate at this time.

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“Taking a cursory look at some of the papers (presentations), I think this meeting is actually very timely and very important because we live in very unusual time and it’s time we start thinking outside the box to see how we can stabilise our economy and the direction it’s going to take,” he said.

While giving her speech, Zainab Ahmed, the Finance Minister remarked that “prior to COVID-19 and Oil price decline, the Nigerian economy was already fragile and vulnerable.”

She therefore proposed a review of the budget, adopting a price benchmark of US$30 per barrel in contrast to the US$57 used by the parliament in preparing the earlier 2020 budget.

Mrs Ahmed revealed that the revenue target earlier set for the Nigeria Customs Service had been slashed from N1.5 trillion to N943 billion “due to anticipated reduction in trade volumes; and privatization proceeds to be cut by 50 per cent, based on the adverse economic outlook on sales of the Independent Power Projects (IPPs) and other assets.”

She mentioned that government would fund the fight against the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria by providing N6.5 billion to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in two tranches (1.5 billion and 5 billion).

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She said the country had been given a grant of US$18.2 million by Japan to support the seven NCDC centres across Nigeria.

According to her, government would provide one billion Naira would be released to pharmaceutical firms.

In his address, Godwin Emefiele, the central bank governor said “while we would expect to see a decline in our expected growth projection for 2020 relative to 2019, the exact impact will be dependent on how well the corona virus is contained over the next few month, and how long low oil prices persist.”

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