NIGERIA, JAPAN SIGN US$14.2m GRANT AID TO STRENGTHEN DISEASE DIAGNOSTICS


Nigeria and Japan on Tuesday in Abuja exchanged notes on a US$14.2 million grant aid project that will strengthen the diagnostic capacity of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

The signing ceremony carried out by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma for Nigeria and the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, Mr Yukata Kikuta for Japan, was witnessed by the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewale.

The total cost of the project is put at JPY 1,580,000,00 (One Billion Five Hundred and Eighty Million Japanese Yen), which is an equivalent of USD 14,246m (Fourteen Million Two Hundred and Forty-Six Thousand USD).

Senator Udoma noted that the project is in line with the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which has ‘investing in our people’ as one of the three broad objectives.

“Under the ERGP we are committed to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare. We are therefore appreciative of the Japanese Government for supporting this project which is directed at improving healthcare in Nigeria”, he said.

While noting that Nigeria, like many other African countries, has had outbreaks of infectious diseases from time to time, the Minister said the Nigerian Government is determined to address emerging public health threats whenever they may occur. He stated however, that “given the limited resources that we have, we therefore appreciate this support given by the Government of Japan to improve and strengthen the work of the NCDC.”

He reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to achieving sustainable economic development as set out in the ERGP and was appreciative of the support the country continues to receive from the Japanese government.

 Minister of Health, Prof Adewale, while acknowledging that this would not be the first time the Japanese Government would be intervening in critical sectors in Nigeria, expressed the hope that the new project will enlarge the capacity of the NCDC to diagnose and treat serious cases. “The health sector is grateful to Japan for this gesture”, he added.

 The Japanese Ambassador, Mr Kikuta, stated that Japan has over the years built and maintained consistent partnership with Nigeria towards strengthening and improving Nigeria’s health sector.

 While stating that it is a common fact that access to health systems is a key to improving the quality of life of a people and promoting a country’s development, Kikuta pointed out that NCDC plays an essential role in controlling infectious diseases but suffers from a shortage of containment facilities and instruments required for the safe, rapid and accurate handling of infectious diseases.

 He observed that the health sector in Nigeria is vulnerable and its ability to deliver services is limited. “In order to take domestic and international countermeasures against infectious diseases specified in the national health policy from now on, it is necessary to expand the building facility and equipment to strengthen the capacity for diagnosis and research of NCDC”, he said.

 

Signed

Akpandem James

Special Adviser (Media) to the Hon Minister

Udoma emphasizes usefulness of geospatial data in national development


The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma on Tuesday empahasised the potential of evidence-based decision-making and the power of geospatial data in providing solutions to developmental problems.

He therefore called on agencies whose focus are on geospatial data generation and mapping to help generate data that can help both Government and the private sector in planning more accurately based on established data. This, he said, will further help in economic development and help government to achieve the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

Senator Udoma in his remarks at the opening of a two-day workshop on Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Data for Development (the GRID3) Use Case, in Abuja, said the potentials of geospatial data and technology applications became evident in Nigeria when it was first used for polio vaccination efforts through the GRID3 Project.

According to him, after an upsurge in polio cases in 2011, geospatial vaccination tracking efforts were put in place, which provided updated settlement maps, population data, and health ward boundaries. “The data collected was integrated into a Vaccine Tracking System that allowed vaccinators to reach every settlement. As a result, polio cases dropped to zero by 2015. This example is a demonstration of the potential of evidence-based decision making and the power of geospatial data in providing solutions to development problems.”.

Following that success, it became obvious that geospatial data could also be useful in other areas of government concerns such as health, education, agriculture, water resources and infrastructural development, he pointed out.

The Minister said in order to develop this further, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, working in collaboration with relevant development partners, established the Nigeria GRID3 secretariat and initiated consultations with stakeholders.

He recalled that in 2017 President Muhammadu Buhari launched the ERGP as a means of taking Nigeria out of recession and placing it back, not just on the path of growth, but a growth that is diversified, inclusive and sustainable.

“So, what the ERGP seeks to achieve is sustainable development. Apart from restoring growth, the ERGP commits the country to the objective of investing in our people and building a globally competitive economy. This requires that the capacity of government be continuously enhanced and improved,” he stated.

The ERGP, he pointed out, recognises that laying the foundations for long term development requires a dynamic, agile private sector that can innovate and respond to global opportunities; and aims to tackle the obstacles hindering the competitiveness of Nigeria, one of which is clearly the dearth of data in a timely and comprehensive manner.

He was on the view that Government and donor intervention can be critical in providing services that are either common or which the private sector will not find commercially viable to provide; which is why such agencies as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), under his Ministry, is playing a major role in supplying economic data. “Geospatial data is a specialised area which requires unique expertise. And that is the importance of the GRID3 Project,” he added.

While acknowledging the contributions of development partners in the process of seeking better ways to tackle development challenges, he noted also that those assembled in workshop are the key stakeholders required to examine how GRID3 can effectively be deployed to support Nigeria’s development.

The funding partners include: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, and the implementing partners are WorldPop/Flowminder, the United Nations Population Fund and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

This workshop was designed to develop tools and applications that will aid our MDAs leverage on Geo-referenced data to effectively utilize Nigeria’s resources to deliver economic development; develop modalities that ensure effective collection, storage, retrieval and analysis of the data as a timely input for Government policies and decisions; ensure that the right stakeholders including Academicians, CSOs and Private sector have timely access to appropriate data, to aid collective participation in National development; and finally develop a strategy to build the Capacity of various levels of government to effectively collect and use geo-referenced data for the development of various sectors and society.

Among those at the workshop were Dr John Primrose, Head of Department UK-DFID, Nigeria; Dr Paul Basinga, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Mr Keith Garreff,  Lead geospatial Operational Support Team from the World Bank; Dr Lorant Czaran, Lead, GRID 3 Project; Prof. Olajide Kuforiji, Surveying and Geo-Informatics Programme Director of OAU and representatives several related government institutions.

Signed

Akpandem James

Special Adviser (Media) to the Hon Minister

Improving healthcare, a priority of Buhari’s Government - Udoma


Improving healthcare is one of the priorities of the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and that is why in spite of the very tight revenue constraints and the demands of other competing sectors, the Health sector has continued to receive increased allocations.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who stated this in Abuja on Tuesday while declaring open the Value for Money in Health Sector Workshop, said this can be seen in the prioritization of Health related expenditures in all the national budgets.

He explained that even with a reduction by 3.2% of the aggregate Federal Government expenditure, from N9.120trillion in the 2018 Budget to N8.83 trillion in the 2019 budget proposal, an increase of 8% was proposed in the 2019 Budget over the amounts allocated for health in the 2018 Budget. He however added that there is a need to ensure that these increased expenditures are actually improving healthcare outcomes.

“It is a workshop that will focus on how we can improve value for money. As we are able to demonstrate and show improved healthcare outcomes for the money we are currently spending, governments at all levels will be encouraged to further increase funding to the health sector.

While indicating that government will continue to be supportive of increased funding to the health sector, and would like the workshop to examine and advise on innovative ways of doing so, he stated that “it is even more critical that we institute key reforms to maximize the values derivable from the allocations to the healthcare sector through improved efficiency in the use of budgeted funds”.

He stressed that the workshop is to enable the participants to deliberate on how to achieve better outcomes for expenditure in the health sector. “This is an important issue as most developing and middle-income countries, particularly those like Nigeria with large and rapidly growing populations, need to find more effective and efficient ways of delivering quality health services to their citizens”, he added.

The Buhari Administration places a very high premium on improving health care delivery and social welfare of the people. “This is why in the Administration’s economic blueprint, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (the ‘ERGP’) one of the three principal objectives of the Plan is “Investing in our People”.

In particular, in the ERGP the Federal Government commits the country to investing in health and education in order to meet the international targets set under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the ERGP the country is committed to improving ‘the accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare’.

The Minister drew attention to the fact that apart from the Federal Government, the various State Governments as well as Local Government Councils have also been prioritising health expenditures in their budgets since responsibility for the health sector is constitutionally shared amongst all the tiers government.

Spending by the sub-national governments, he stated, must therefore be taken into account in any assessment of the amount of public funds that is being expended in the health sector. “Indeed, no meaningful discussion about improving healthcare in Nigeria can take place without involving the sub-national governments.”

That is why the organizers of this workshop, the Collaborative African Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI), also invited State representatives to participate in the event, he pointed out. He hoped that the outcomes of the workshop will help shape public sector expenditure management practices at both the Federal and the Sub-national levels, with respect to the health sector.

Signed

Akpandem James

Special Adviser (Media and Communication) to the Hon. Minister

FG determined to improve its revenues – Udoma


The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, on Tuesday in Abuja, emphasised that the Federal Government is determined to improve its revenue generation this year and has already taken a number of steps in that direction.

While briefing the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Finance, Appropriation, Planning and Economic Development on the 2019 revenue and expenditure projections as contained in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) 2019-2021), the Minister stated that one of the reasons it could not realize its revenue target for 2018 was that some one-off items listed for implementation in the fiscal year were not actualized.

But he said those items which include the N710 billion from Oil Joint Venture Asset Restructuring and N320 billion from revision of the Oil Production Sharing Contract Legislation/terms have been rolled over to 2019.

Among other initiatives aimed at expanding the fiscal space, the Minister indicated that the Federal Government will intensify efforts to improve public financial management through the comprehensive implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Also the Department of Petroleum Resources has been directed to, within three months, complete the collection of past-due oil license and royalty charges, including those due from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) (a subsidiary of NNPC), which it had agreed to pay since 2017.

THE Minister said the Ministry of Finance, working with all the relevant authorities, has been authorized to take action to liquidate all recovered, unencumbered assets within six months.

Amongst other revenue generating initiatives, he said the President has directed that work should be immediately concluded on the deployment of the National Trade Window and other technologies to enhance customs collections efficiency from the current 64 percent to up to 90 percent over the next few years.

He indicated that in spite of the challenges that militated against the realisation of targeted revenues, the revenues generated in 2018 showed a significant improvement over 2017. He said that he expects further improvement this year with the sustained implementation of the prescriptions of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

The Minister explained that the ERGP guides allocations in the Federal Government budget because it sets out the key execution priorities of government for the growth and development of the economy. Government, he added, is encouraged by the results so far attained after implementing the Plan for about two years.

He said the economy has exited from recession and is on the path of growth, even though it takes time for the impact to be fully felt by a significant number of people.  “It takes time, and will take some more efforts but we will keep working on it so as to fully realize the objectives of the ERGP. The implementation of the ERGP will create growth and jobs and reduce poverty,”, he assured.

Explaining the basis for some of the assumptions in the MTEF/FSP, the Minister said the oil price benchmark was arrived at after extensive consultations with industry experts and consultants; and he indicated that he believes that the $60 per barrel projected for 2019 is achieveable. He noted that oil was currently trading at about US$67.

On the limitation imposed by OPEC production quota, the Minister also explained that there is no quota set for condensates by OPEC. Nigeria, he said, could use condensate production to augment its production. “Mr. President has directed the NNPC to take all possible measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day”, he added.

The Minister told the Committee that the 2019 Budget proposals, which are based on the MTEF/FSP seek to continue the reflationary and consolidation policies of the 2017 and 2018 Budgets respectively, which helped restore the economy back on to the path of growth.

He explained that in allocating funds in the 2019 budget proposals, priority was given to critical infrastructure projects.

Others who made presentations before the Committee include the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Chairman FIRS, Mr Tunde Fowler; Accountant General of the Federation, Ibrahim Idris; Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, Comptroller General of Customs Col. Ali; representatives of the Central Bank Governor and the Group Managing Director of NNPC. The Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, was also at the meeting.

 

Signed

Akpandem James
Special Adviser to the Hon. Minister

FG fiscal strategy targets growth-enhancing sectors, Udoma tells Senate


Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma on Thursday told the Senate Committee on Finance that some slight adjustments had been effected on the 2019 Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) between when it was approved by the Federal Executive Council and the finalization of the 2019 Budget Proposals.

The Minister who was briefing the Committee on the 2019 Revenue and Expenditure Projections said the adjustment only affected the expenditure levels as it was done to reflect some unanticipated expenditure items and the consequences of those adjustments.  

The key assumptions and macro-framework of the 2019 Budget targets 2.3mbpd of oil production at an oil benchmark price of $60 per barrel; exchange rate of N305 per Dollar, Inflation rate at 9.98%, Nominal consumption of N119.28 trillion, Nominal GDP at N139.65 trillion and GDP growth rate of 3.01%

Before giving an overview of the 2019 Expenditure Framework, the Minister briefed the Committee on the 2018 expenditure outturns. He stated that of the total appropriation of N9.12 trillion, N7.24 trillion had been spent as at December 31, 2018; representing 79% performance. He indicated that Debt Service and the implementation of Non-debt Recurrent Expenditure, including payment of workers’ salaries and pensions, were on track.

He explained that Capital releases only commenced after the signing of the 2018 Budget on June 20, 2018; and as at January 11, 2019, a total of N1.226 trillion had been released for capital projects.

Spending on Capital, he explained further, was prioritised in favour of critical ongoing infrastructural projects in the power, roads, rail and agriculture sectors. “Implementation of the 2018 Capital Budget will continue into 2019 until the 2019 Budget is passed into law,” he pointed out.

The Minister said Government will continue its fiscal strategy of directing resources to most productive and growth-enhancing sectors while efforts will be intensified to increase revenue. “Government will also leverage private capital to supplement capital allocations from the Budget.

Highlights of Government’s fiscal strategy, he enumerated to include enhancing economic growth and ensuring inclusiveness; promoting economic diversification; maintaining macroeconomic stability; increasing revenue generation; rebalancing the distribution of Government spending; improving quality of spending; and, ensuring sustainable deficit levels.

To achieve these objectives, the Minister said fiscal, monetary and trade policies will continue to be aligned and implemented in a very coordinated manner. “The strategy recognizes the need to deliberately cushion the effects of adjustments on the poor and vulnerable members in the society.”

An overview of the 2019 expenditure framework shows that:

·        2019 FGN spending (exclusive of GOEs/BT Loans) is projected to be N8.83 trillion, less than FY2018 approved budget by 3.22%.

·        Recurrent (non-debt) spending is expected to rise by 34.17%, from N3.52 trillion in FY2018 to N4.72 trillion (reflecting increases in salaries & pensions including provisions for implementation of a new minimum wage).

·        At N2.14 trillion, debt service is 24.24% of planned total expenditure.

·        Provision to retire maturing bonds to local contractors decreased by 36.84% from N190 billion in FY2018 to N120 billion.                                                                                             

·        N2.28 trillion has been allocated for capital spending, inclusive of capital in statutory transfers.

·        For comprehensiveness and transparency, the expenditure plans of the top nine Government-owned Enterprises (GOEs), as well as Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral project-tied loans have been integrated into the 2019 - 2021 Medium Term Fiscal Framework, but have not been included in the budget proposal.

·        With the inclusion of N275.88 billion representing capital for the top-nine GOEs and N556.02 billion for Multi-lateral/Bi-lateral project-tied loans, the aggregate capital budget is N3.12 trillion. This represents 30 percent of the total FGN proposed expenditure for 2019.

The Minister said in order to get full value for monies expended by the Government over time and to avoid duplication and waste, emphasis will continue to be on completion of existing projects. Accordingly, provisions have been made to carry over projects that are not likely to be fully funded under the 2018 budget to the 2019 capital budget.

Explaining the basis for the 2019 assumptions, the Minister said notwithstanding the softening in international oil prices in late 2018, the considered view of most reputable oil industry analysts is that the downward trend is not necessarily reflective of the outlook for 2019. Currently, the average Brent oil price projection for 2019 by 32 different institutions with relevant expertise is still about $69/b.

However, he assured that government will closely monitor the situation and will respond to any sustained changes in the international oil price outlook for 2019. He disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the NNPC to take all possible measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day.

He told the Committee that the 2019 Budget proposal seeks to continue the reflationary & consolidation policies of the 2017 and 2018 Budgets respectively, which helped put the economy back on the path of growth; pointing out that the 2019-2021 MTFF, Medium Term Sector Strategies and proposed 2019 Budget reflect many of the reforms and initiatives in the ERGP, which is the roadmap to economic recovery and a more sustainable growth.

To address the revenue challenges that government is currently facing, the Minister said the Government will intensify its efforts to improve public financial management through the comprehensive implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System

 

Other key initiatives include the immediate commencement of the restructuring of the Joint Venture Oil Assets so as to reduce government shareholding to 40 percent; an exercise the President has insisted must be completed within the 2019 fiscal year.

He said the Department of Petroleum Resource has also been directed to, within three months, complete the collection of past-due oil license and royalty charges, including those due from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) (a subsidiary of NNPC), which it had agreed to pay since 2017; while the Ministry of Finance, working with all the relevant authorities, has been authorized to take action to liquidate all recovered, unencumbered assets within six months.

The Minister said among other revenue generating initiatives, the President has directed that work should immediately be concluded on the deployment of the National Trade Window and other technologies to enhance Customs collections efficiency from the current 64 percent to up to 90 percent over the next few years.

Signed

Akpandem James

Special Adviser (Media and Communication) to the Hon. Minister

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