ABUJA, OCTOBER 22, 2016 – The Senate is committed to passing laws that will help end the country’s worst economic recession in decades by attracting private investment in roads, rail and the ports.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said this in an interview with Bloomberg at his residence in Abuja on Friday.
“We have 11 bills that we have identified as bills that we need to pass to get the economy up and running. We are looking at how the private sector can take major trunk roads away from the government, and how the railway too can be taken away from the government,” he explained.
He said the monetary and fiscal authorities needed to work together to achieve macro-economic stability and enable a free-floating foreign exchange regime, so that the local currency, which is he noted was “undervalued,” would finds its real value and win investors’ confidence.
The country is facing its biggest economic crisis in 25 years with the collapse in the prices of crude oil, which provides 70 per cent of government revenue and more than 90 per cent of all foreign income. Dollar shortages have hurt the nation, affecting importers of raw materials and finished goods alike.
With militant attacks in the southern oil-producing region further crippling export revenue, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is struggling to implement a record budget of N6.1tn planned to stimulate output by investing in infrastructure projects. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the economy will probably shrink by 1.7 per cent this year.
Nigeria will need $3.1tn over the next three decades to cover existing infrastructure deficits, with half of the funding expected from private investors, according to the Ministry of Budget and Planning.
“It’s clear that government can’t fund them even if the crude price hadn’t dropped this much,” Saraki said, adding, “If we can address the infrastructure shortfall, that way, we’ll bring real productivity to the country.”
Apart from laws to enable private investors to run rail, roads and ports, the legislature is also working on bills to improve the ease of doing business in the country as well as reform the Customs service and the petroleum industry, he said.
“The most important thing is for us to continue to bring confidence back into the economy in the short-term,” Saraki said.
Resolving the insurgency in the Niger Delta through dialogue and creating a “truly flexible” exchange policy will help boost confidence in the economy, he added.
“The sense of purpose is there, but if we continue to make these kinds of errors, then people will lose confidence and that’s what we can’t allow,” the Senate president added.