By Moses Adeniyi
The Federal Government has called for collaboration from all State Governments in the Federation in the quest towards revamping the economy from prevailing strains, particularly as posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. (Mrs) Zainab Ahmed, made the call on Monday at the opening ceremony of the event of the National Council On Finance and Economic Development (NACOFED) 2021 hosted in Lagos.
Mentioning that the Federal Government would sustain strong relationship with other levels of government, she said “Our administration since coming into office in 2015, had been dedicated to improving cordial relationship among the tiers of government. We shall continue to partner with States and other critical stakeholders to ensuring optimal use of our domestic resources as a means of consolidating our achievements.
“The Federal Government remains committed to the reforms we started which are aimed at enabling the business environments, creating the right fiscal space for investment and diversification of the revenue base of the economy.”
According to her, interventions recently initiated by the Federal Government to assist States include the approval of the bridging facility in the sum of N656.1 billion to be granted to States over a period six months towards cushioning the effects of the resumption in the payment of the three Federal Government Bailout facilities (salary bailout, excess facility and budget support facility).
She disclosed that the Federal Government in a bid to further incorporate smooth running of interventions processes recently cut-down the interest rate on intervention facilities from 9 per cent to 5 per cent per annum.
She said such efforts of revenue reforms on sustained improvement in non oil taxes, amendments of the Finance Act of 2019 and 2020, Strategies Revenue Growth Initiative, the introduction of States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programmes among others, are initiative aimed at strengthening public finance management in the Country.
Lamenting that the last couple of years presented series of challenges to the Country and the entire globe, Ahmed mentioned that the decline in revenue to slow growth and recovery is largely due to the fall in crude oil prices on account of falling global demand and the containment measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, which affected virtually every sector of the economy.
According to her, the Federal Government is looking towards resetting opportunities, which she said was the Government’s focus for growing and consolidating the recovery efforts.
She disclosed that the Federal Government would continue to provide “other financing options to States in the form of concessionary loan to support the development of vital sectors of the economy such as health, agriculture and SMEs aimed to complement the State’s in fighting the pandemic, creating the needed job for the people and alleviating poverty.”
“The combined effect of these policies would assist in addressing the current security and other socio-economic challenges confronting the nation,” she said.
In his keynote address, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the theme of the 2021 NACOFED Conference, tagged “Public Sector Finance Management in the New Normal, (Post Covid-19)” was very timely, following the experience of confronting strains from a global health pandemic “that has forced a rethinking of everything, including the management of public finances.”
“Public sector budgets have needed to be reconsidered and re-ordered, as new priorities and concerns have shown up, especially in the area of health spending,” he said.
According to him, the conference will provide an opportunity for the Federal and the State Governments to share thoughts, exchange views “and forge a common front in addressing some of the fiscal and socio-economic challenges foisted on us by the pandemic.”
“Governments around the world have committed trillions of dollars in stimulus to COVID-19 recovery in areas of health, food security, job and wealth creation.
“The pandemic has also hit public finances significantly, forcing national and sub-national governments to struggle to find ways to maintain the levels of funding required to deliver on their promises and mandates.
“On the whole, what the pandemic has done is to compel us all, whether in the public or private sectors, to focus more attention on exploring ways “to do more with less.
“We have been forced to find ways of optimizing spending, to ensure that, one, we are cutting down on waste and excess, and two, that every unit of surviving expenditure delivers maximum value and impact, for the benefit of the populace,” he said.
“From my experience as a Public Finance Administrator, I can state unequivocally that a robust Public Finance Management system is the critical pathway for the efficient and effective delivery of the Dividends of democracy to the citizens and must therefore be carried out in a manner that is transparent and accountable to all.
“The ultimate goals must be Value for Money, and the enhancement of the quality and timeliness of service delivery,” he said.
He submitted that the Country “must rapidly embrace technology as a tool for increasing transparency and accountability, as well as expanding citizens’ access to public services in a manner that is cost-effective and solution oriented.
“Every opportunity to reduce non-essential spending must equally be seized with both hands.
“Here in Lagos State, we are doing a lot in that regard, from cleaning up our public payroll system, to embracing automation and technology in the management of land and property records and processes, to restructuring loans and bonds to ensure a productive lowering of our debt service costs, and also to exploring innovative ways of mobilizing capital to deliver on our vision of a truly 21st century Megacity.”
In his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Aliyu Ahmed, who commended the consistency of the Lagos State Government in developmental efforts towards improving national courses, said the deliberations in the forum would centre on brainstorming on national economic matters towards policy makings.
He said the THEME was carefully selected to proffer possible solutions to address strains posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, by harnessing opportunities and tackling challenges.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, representing Lagos West Senatorial District, Senator Solomon Olamilekan, said it was instructive to consider how the pandemic has affected financial management in the Country and to develop strategies to address same for effective service delivery.
The Chairman, Committee on Finance, House of Representatives, Hon. Kabiru Idris, said the House is committed to kick start all processes to effect resolutions reached by the Council.
Chairman, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Engr. Elias Mbam represented by the Secretary of the Commission, Muhammhed, Bello Shehu, said the forum is timely with national development plan, the implementation of which he said would be productive to unleashing proper economic diversification.
The event had in attendance key finance stakeholders including, Permanent Secretaries, Accountant Generals, Commissioners of Finance of the various States, Heads of Federal and State Agencies, Legislators and key economic drivers of the private sectors among others.