The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday justified the nation’s rising debt profile, saying his regime needed to borrow to fund critical infrastructure like roads, rail and power.
According to a statement titled, ‘President Buhari justifies borrowing to fund infrastructure,’ by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke at a virtual meeting with members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council from the Presidential Vila, Abuja.
Buhari spoke at a time stakeholders are expressing concerns over the nation’s rising debt profile.
But the President said his regime needed the loans.
“We have so many challenges with infrastructure. We just have to take loans to do roads, rail and power, so that investors will find us attractive and come here to put their money,” Shehu quoted the President as saying after listening to a presentation by PEAC, chaired by Prof Ayo Salami.
Buhari was also said to have regretted that failure to provide infrastructure for effective transport deprived the country of its well-deserved status as the West African hub for air cargo transport and trans-shipment of goods.
On the economy, the President noted the challenges posed by the “collapse of the oil market” and the decision of government to abide by the reduced oil production quota allocated by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
He said, “We have to accept that decision; otherwise they (Middle-East producers) can flood the market and make the product unviable.
Buhari also talked about the need for the unemployed to be persuaded to embrace farming.
He said, “For us to bounce back to productivity, especially in agriculture, the unemployed with many of them uneducated had to be persuaded to go into agriculture.
“If we hadn’t gone back to the lands, we would have been in trouble by now.
“That is why we stopped the importation of food thereby saving jobs and foreign exchange.
“COVID has reduced us to the same level as developed countries.
“We are lucky we went back to the land. We eat what we produce. We are doing our best to secure the country and provide infrastructure for investment to be viable in the country,” he said.
Buhari pledged to continue to draw from the council’s wisdom and experiences as the nation deals with challenging economic times.
Shehu said Salami had, earlier in his presentation, highlighted the council’s recommendations on poverty reduction and stimulation of non-debt investment inflows.
The statement added, “The council recommended steps for the effective implementation of government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, as well as measures to curb poverty disparity in Nigeria.”
“The PEAC used the opportunity of the meeting to express support and solidarity with the administration on its recent policies.
“It listed the implementation of reforms encapsulated in the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, the reforms in the energy sector, bringing electricity and fuel prices in line with the market, and the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria to merge the exchange rate of the naira versus other foreign currencies.”