The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Thursday, said the Federal Government would prepare a supplementary budget to be sent to the National Assembly to cater for COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination.
She said the fiscal document would be prepared in March. Ahmed spoke at the maiden edition of State House briefing held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“There will be a supplementary budget, the first one will be in March relating the COVID-19 pandemic but we will also have a mid-year review like we did last year of the budget.
“If at the time we do the review and there is a need to go back to do any amendment for supplementary budget, at that time, we will take that decision; if not, we will just report the review,” she said.
Ahmed gave an indication that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive the country next week when she said, “We have a provision in the 2021 budget for immunization. We are already releasing money to the health authorities to start operation in the first batch of vaccines that is going to arrive the country in one week.
“But what we have in the budget is not enough, so we are working with the health authorities to provide a plan that will be taken to the President for approval and to be taken to the National Assembly as a supplementary budget specifically for COVID-19 vaccination.”
The minister again said the level of Nigeria’s borrowing is not too high contrary to the general belief. “There is a lot of sensitivity in Nigeria about the level of borrowing by the government and it is not misplaced.
“I said earlier that the level of borrowing is not unreasonable, it is not high. The problem we have is that of revenue. So, what we need to do is to increase revenue to be able to enhance our debt to GDP obligation capacity,” she added.
Ahmed said if the government decided not to borrow and therefore do not build rails and major infrastructure until revenue rises enough, the country would regress.
She described borrowing as a decision that every government has to take. She added, “Our assessment is that we need to borrow to build our major infrastructure.
“We just need to make sure that when we borrow, we are applying the borrowing to specific major infrastructure that will enhance the business environment in this country.
“Again, we all have to work, not just the Federal Government but also state governments, to increase our revenue to enhance our debt service obligations.
“We also have to make sure that when we are choosing the projects, we are choosing carefully the ones that will enhance business environment so that more revenue yields come into the treasuries of the country.”
The minister put the country’s total borrowing as of December 31, 2020 at 21.6percent of the GDP. She said as of 2019, the debt to GDP ratio was 19.2percent, adding that only two percent was added.
She also described the increase in crude oil price as positive for the country, saying the more revenue the nation realizes out of the budget, the less it will borrow.
Ahmed said there were plans to get the Federal Executive council to approve a memorandum to compel MDAs to patronize made in Nigeria goods.
On the fears being expressed from certain quotas on Chinese loans, she said the loans are for capital projects.
The Director-General, Debt Management Office, Ms Patience Oniha, said the country’s external debt as of Thursday “is about $31bn.”
Out of the figure, she put Chinese loans at N3.2trn, which she said was about 10% of the total.