The Federal Government has said it is set to present supplementary budget to the National Assembly for acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination of frontline workers.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made this disclosure at the maiden edition of State House weekly briefing at the Council Chambers briefing room at Aso Rock Villa.
The weekly briefing is a platform put together by the presidential communication team to keep Nigerians abreast of various efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari’s led adminstration to develop the country.
The platform is to play host to ministers and other top government functionarries weekly or bi-weekly to give an intensive updates on their ministries.
The first edition focused on the Economy and Economic Recovery.
Ahmed, had in January said that there was no provision in the 2021 Budget to fund the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
She had, however, informed that the Federal Government was working on the type and quantity of COVID-19 vaccines to procure, while her ministry and Ministry of Health will meet to finalise an amount to be allocated to vaccine procurement.
Ahmed while responding to a question on if the government was planning to raise budget for vaccines said: “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 and 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.”
Ahmed for the umpteenth time reassured that the country’s debt profile was still within sustainable limit once the country rolls out its infrastructures and the economy start growing.
She said: “There is a lot of sensitivity in Nigeria about the level of borrowing by the government and it is not misplaced. And 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. If we say we will not borrow and therefore not build rails and major infrastructure until our revenue rises enough, then, we will regress as a country. We will be left behind, we won’t be able to improve our business environment and our economy will not grow.
“So, it is a decision that every government has to take. 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 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.”
She added that the total borrowing of the country as at 31 of December is 21.6percent of the GDP. “So, if we were not looking at adding the other category of loans that I mentioned, we don’t even need to increase that at this time. As at 2019, the debt to GDP ratio was 19.2percent so only two percent was added.”