N50trn debt stock: IMF still promises more funds for Nigeria

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From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja

With the total debt stock of Nigeria set to peak at N50 trillion this year, International Monetary Fund ((IMF), at the weekend, promised to finance more projects in Nigeria and lend more funds to the government.

Speaking at the National Economic Dialogue on ‘Critical Challenges Confronting the Nigerian Economy’ organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in Abuja, Resident Representative of IMF, Mr Ari Aisen posited that Nigeria as a big economy is capable of paying its debts if the funds were properly channelled into good use.

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He said that without the financing, Nigeria may not be able to pay salaries and arrears of salaries. Also, the country may not be able to tackle emergencies.

“When you face a shock, you need someone to lend you a hand. Of course, you will be paying your debt. There is no doubt that Nigeria with a big economy will be able to repay its debt and will pay all its creditors. I think it’s very important that we keep that in mind.

“It’s important for Nigeria to have development partners that can provide financing in times of need. There should not be any shame in requesting for assistance either during emergencies or out of emergencies. Of course, the right economic policy should be developed. In IMF we advise people to develop capacity” he explained.

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On the question of taxation, IMF advised the government to develop a tax system that is progressive.

Aisen said that the government should make tax payment easy for Nigerians and develop trust among the citizens.

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To this effect, he noted that the government should be transparent in service delivery so as to attract more Nigerians into the tax net.

“The delivery of public goods should be transparent and there should be accountability in service delivery.

The government should make use of the collections in the best possible way. If you put accountability and transparency together, there is a chance that the government will collect more taxes

and the government will deliver the services to the people. I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria has a huge potential and will succeed” he opined.

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Earlier, Chairman of NESG, Mr Asue Ighodalo, had condemned Nigeria’s high rate of joblessness and poverty, saying that it is a function of low productivity of employment-elastic sectors.

These employment sectors include agriculture, manufacturing, construction and trade.

He noted that unless the critical binding growth constraints facing these sectors are addressed, their capacity to create more job opportunities and decent employment will weaken.

“Macroeconomic instability is characterised by high inflation, volatile exchange rates; weak external reserve; rising public debts, deteriorating trade balance and the misalignment between the monetary policy rate and other interest rates. These unfavourable macroeconomic conditions constitute a disincentive to investors” he said.

According to him, over the years, Nigeria’s human capital deficit and skills gap could be attributed to inadequate funding for social sectors (education and health sectors) and limited capacity to harness human capital potential.

On the national security, Ighodalo posited that if it’s not checked, the recurrence of community and personal insecurity would continue to threaten macroeconomic stability in Nigeria.

So far, he highlighted that weak economic competitiveness has remained a crucial concern for investors and businesses in Nigeria as they face obstacles that threaten their survival and expansion.

“We are at a significant crossroad. This is a moment in our national history where we need political leaders who think globally and act locally to tackle seemingly intractable development problems to emerge” he said, adding that the emergence of such enlightened leadership is what Nigerians desperately need now.