Chris Steven, Abuja
As the nation awaits President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the 2016 budget ant moment from now, the Federal Government has itemized core areas of concentration in the budget once it is assented by the President.
To this end,members of the Federal Executive Council are already upbeat in anticipation of the budget passage.
They met again on Wednesday,at the Presidential Villa for a meeting, Presided over by Vice President,Yemi Osinbajo.
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning,Zainab Muhammed,who briefed State House Correspondents,shortly after the meeting,said there are 34 strategic programmes that government intends to pursue within 2016.
She said each of these programmes would have clear deliverables and target measuring indicators to ensure that the respective Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) deliver on the commitments.
The goals,she said are grouped into four major objectives with the first focusing on policy, governance and security, secondly diversification of the economy, while the third will consist of creating support for the poor and the vulnerable and reflecting on the economy through investment.
She disclosed that the Ministry of Budget and National Planning was mandated to track and report on quarterly basis to the FEC on the performance of these key priority areas.
“There is policy, governance and security and one item from that is to achieve and maintain a capital spending 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 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 thematic area of diversifying the economy, we plan to implement measures to achieve self sufficiency and become a net export of certain number of agricultural product, the first one being rice. We plan to attain self sufficiency in rice production by 2018, in tomato paste 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,”Zainab stated.
She said plans were also on to expand the agro allied sector to intensify local production of cassava, cocoa, cashew nuts, fruits and sesemi seeds and the Agric Ministry would also lead in that area.
She noted that government would make use of 5,000 hectares of arable land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities as well as utilise 22 dams for commercial farming by prospective investors and the objective was to extend farming so that it can become and all year round activity.
The Federal Government was also determined to implement a road map that would see an increase in private sector investment in tourism and sports,particularly to increase investment in the service sector thereby increase job creation and youth employment.
On the power, rails and road sector,she said contemporary moves were to optimise power generation up to 7,000 megawatts installed capacity,while building on associated infrastructure.
“To ensure we transmit and distribute this capacity in the maximum operational level that is obtainable and also to conclude the privatization of NIPP plants and improve management and performance of TSA.
“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.
“There is also the priority objective of resolving all issues that has to do with 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 finalized and payment will be provided to the gas suppliers who are being owed significant amount of money.
“There is also plans 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 finalize the negotiation regarding the Calabar-Lagos rail line. Of course the objective of this is to increase availability of mass transit, to relief 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.
“There is also a plan to undertake the rehabilitation and construction of 31 major projects and restore the degraded sections of some major high ways and improved connectivity over a distance of 210,093 kilometers through public works maintenance, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and other interventions. The objective is to ease movement of people and enhanced road movement and connectivity,”Zainab stated.