2016 Budget: FG Unveils 34 Priority Projects

President Muhammadu Buhari will today receive the clean copy of the 2016 budget from the National Assembly, just as the federal government has unveiled 34 strategic priority projects for this year.

Speaking to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, minister of state for budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, alongside the minister of information, Lai Mohammed, minister of state for industry, trade and investment, Aisha Abubakar, minister of state for foreign affairs, Khadija Abba Ibrahim, stated they discussed the strategic implementation plan for the 2016 budget.

She said: “On the 2016 budget, I must say the executive and legislature have worked very hard in putting things together, reviewing the details of the budget and it is at its final stage; so maybe between today (Wednesday) and tomorrow, the National Assembly will start the process of transmitting the details to the president.

According to her, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning presented to council for discussion priority economic activities that the administration needs to undertake to ensure that the purpose for which the 2016 budget was made, which is to stimulate the economy, to create jobs for our teeming youths and to extend support to the poor and very vulnerable, is realised.

She said the ministry presented 34 strategic priority programmes that need to be realised within 2016, noting that each of these projects programmes has very clear deliverables and targets and indicators which will be measured to ensure that the respective ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) deliver on the desired goals.

Ahmed disclosed that these 34 specific areas are grouped into four major objectives. The first is policy, governance and security; the second is diversification of the economy; the third is creating support for the poor and the vulnerable while the fourth is reflecting the economy through investment.

She stated that the paper was well received by council and that the 34 priority projects were approved for implementation.

According to her, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning has been given responsibility to track and report the performance of these key priority areas to the council on quarterly basis.

She said: “The 34 priority areas that we need to implement in 2016 are categorized into six thematic areas. There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spend minimum of 30 per cent on an annual basis starting from 2016.

“The objective of doing that is to reflect the economy and enhance employment generation capacity for the productive sector. Another area is to achieve an appropriate exchange regime; the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is leading this particular action.  The objective is to achieve a predictable exchange rate by the end of 2016.

“There is also a target for us to increase low interest lending to the real sector. The focus is to achieve an interest rate that is single digit, maybe nine per cent, and the purpose is to increase output and growth. Again the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment along with the CBN are taking action on this.

“We also have a target to maintain a stable debt management strategy so that we can optimise the local and foreign debts that we have and the Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office will be taking action on this.”

On the issue of diversifying the economy, she said the administration plans to implement measures to achieve self-sufficiency and become a net export of certain number of agricultural produce, the first one being rice.

“We plan to attain self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018, in tomato paste by 2016 and also increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock. The deadline for these will be announced later in the year. The Ministry of Agriculture is still trying to work out details. It means we will stop importing and we will get to a point when we will start exporting.

“We also have plans to expand the agro-allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesame seeds and the Agric Ministry is also leading in that area.

“There is also plan to make use of 5,000 hectares arable land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities and to utilise 22 dams  for commercial farming by prospective investors and the objective is to extend farming so that it can become an all-year round activity and that there is productivity all-year round.

She further announced a plan to implement a road map to increase private sector investment in tourism and sports “and the objective is to increase investment in the service sector thereby increasing job creation and youth employment.

“The power, rails and road are also very important priority area. There are a number of specific activities but one of them is to optimise up to 7,000 megawatts installed capacity and to ensure the associated infrastructure to ensure we transmit and distribute this capacity in the maximum operational level that is obtainable, and also to conclude the privatisation of NIPP plants and improve management and performance of TSA (Treasury Single Account). The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is leading in this regard. The target deliverables is to increase the availability of power, thereby enhancing investment, productivity and employment and business growth in our country.

She added that it was also the government’s priority objective to resolve all issues concerning gas pricing.

“The availability of gas is very key to the availability of power to the nation, so gas pricing is a priority and is currently being addressed and will be finalised and payment will be provided to the gas suppliers who are being owed significant amount of money.

“And also there is plan to conclude the road map of development, the objective of all of these is to increase investment, and gas peaks supply to the oil industry.”

The minister noted the administration’s commitment to reviving rail   transportation in Nigeria.

She said: “There is also plan to complete the Kaduna-Abuja-Ajaokuta railway lines in 2016. We are also revising the National Rail Masterplan which is commencing construction of the Lagos-Kano standard Gauge Rail line and also to finalise the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line. Of course the objective of this is to increase availability of mass transit, to reduce pressure on road infrastructure. The Federal Ministry of Transport is leading in this regard working in collaboration with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Budget and Planning to ensure the required funding is availed for this project.”

She also disclosed plans to rehabilitate and construct 31 major projects and restore the degraded sections of some major highways and improve connectivity over a distance of 210,093 kilometres through public works maintenance, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other interventions.

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