The Presidential committee to assess impact of COVID-19 on the economy on Friday said the Federal Government has so far released N285b for capital projects.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, stated this shortly after leading the team to present its interim report to President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday at the presidential Villa, Abuja.
The committee was inaugurated on Monday by President Buhari to provide a coordinated response mechanism to the economic challenges posed by the dwindling price of crude oil on the international market.
This is just as government hinted at a possible reduction in the price of Premium Motor Spirit PMS following the fall in crude oil in the international market.
The Minister disclosed that the N285b was for critical infrastructure covering education, health, transportation, amongst others with strong impact on the economy
The minister said the team had presented an interim report to the President, adding that government had also released $220m as counterpart funding for ongoing rail projects
This committee set up by the President to review the impact of COVID-19, as well as the crash of crude oil price, had a short meeting with the President in which it filed an interim report, and the President has directed that members should consult and come back to him with an update next week.
Financing the 2020 budget of N10.50T has created a huge challenge following poor revenue from crude oil sales on the international market as a result of the Coronavirus
The fund will be a great relief for the capital component of the budget of N2,465,418,006,955
The 2020 budget is made up of N560,470,827,235 for Statutory transfer; N2,725,498,930,000 for debt servicing and recurrent expenditure of N4,842,974,600,640
Zainab said her Ministry on Tuesday released N285 billion to a number of agencies.
“We prioritize the releases to the critical infrastructure agencies. But we have also made the releases for education as well as health. So the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Works and Housing, Niger Delta, a number of ministries and agencies that have important infrastructure projects have got their funds.
“Also this week we have been able to release to the Ministry of Transport the counterpart funding provided for in our budget that is required for the important railway projects that are currently ongoing, the finances from the China EXIM Bank. They are the funds that have been released this week. So in addition to the N285 billion, there is up to about $220 million that has been released this week for counterpart funding for railway projects,” the minister said.
The committee was mandated by the President to ensure that the business of government continues to run as much as possible normally.
Buhari also charged the team to ensure that government agencies are funded, ensure continuous investments in critical infrastructure that would enable continuous growth and also to concentrate on programmes and projects that will enhance employment and create jobs.
“We are looking at ways and means through which the revenue of government will be stabilized and that we are able to fund the states through the FAAC process at a level that is averagely expected and planned for both the federal as well as the National budget.
“So as we finish our consultations next week, we will be expecting some approvals and then we will be meeting with you to inform you of the specific approvals that we have been able to obtain from His Excellency the President,” the minister explained.
The Minister revealed that the assessment of Nigeria’s medical team had not revealed needs to introduce travel ban, adding that “they feel Nigeria’s risk will be too escalated if flights are banned.
“As far as I know, the international community has been commending the efforts of the Nigerian medical team in trying to protect Nigerians from being infected with this disease.
She said China remains one of Nigeria’s largest trading partners, adding that “So even though COVID-19 is just one of the two cases that have been reported here, we feel the impact in the economy because of the trade volume.
“But we have seen already China beginning to go back to work. Of course there is a lag period for what has happened. |Already the crude oil price has moved from $30 per barrel to $36 per barrel. So there will be a recovery. But for us, in everything, when something crashes, the recovery is not as fast as the recovery itself.
“So we will manage the economy by prioritizing what we do during the period that there will be slow activities so that when things pick up everything will go back to normal,” she said.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Silva, on his part, said government is working on modalities for reduction of premium Motor Spirit PMS
According to him, “the price of PMS is likely to be reduced considering the drop in crude oil price, but as the Honourable Minister has said, this is a developing issue”.
He however noted that government was still consulting on the issue.