Saturday, February 24Inside Business Africa

OPS demands account for N35tr debt in 10 years

The Organised Private Sector (OPS), has challenged the Federal Government to give a proper account for over N35 trillion accumulated debt in the last 10 years.

They argued that just over a decade after Nigeria got debt relief from the Paris Club, the nation was again, plunged neck-deep into another round.

The Guardian gathered that the nation’s debt stock has continued to rise progressively from N8.32 trillion in September 2013, to N22.7 trillion in March 2017, and N33 trillion in March 2020.

While the Senate raised an alarm in March over the N33 trillion, it still went ahead to approve a loan request of $22.7billion, and another $5.5billion in June.

The OPS, under the auspices of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), averred that borrowing is a source of financing developmental projects and running economies, on the condition of transparent and judicious use of the loans for intended projects.

However, they expressed concerns over a 180 per cent leap in borrowing within 10 years, and more worrisome still is the lack of evidence that the borrowed funds are being properly utilised.

At NECA’s 63rd yearly general meeting yesterday, its President, Taiwo Adeniyi, who admitted while the debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is within the threshold, it is clear that the debt-to-revenue ratio is unsustainable, and charged the government to urgently diversify and strengthen its revenue base to avoid further shocks as presently being experienced.

He noted that the consequences of the rising debt can be very devastating, especially as the percentage of the national budget used for servicing debt in the 2020 budget is a staggering 26.8 per cent, and capital expenditure at 22.2 per cent.

This, according to him, crowds out expenditure on critical infrastructures and human development activities.

He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to sell-off or concession its assets that are lying fallow and moribund, to stem the rising debt and conserve funds for developmental purposes.

The Association also urged to fast-track the full deregulation of the downstream oil sector and channel the proceeds into funding developmental projects and financing annual budget deficits.

While global economic projections seem gloomy and distasteful, Adeniyi said it is imperative that the government fashioned out a growth plan peculiar to the citizenry and workable in their circumstance.

“We have nothing against government borrowing; our concern is that the money we have borrowed in the last 10 years, what have we used it for? Borrowing itself is bad, especially when you cannot see what you borrowed for.

“A new direction should be charted for our diversification of the non-oil economy and revenue sources, as it is obvious that the nation cannot hinge its future on the volatility of crude oil prices.”

He called on the government to, without delay, resolve the issues in the power sector, fast-track infrastructural development, and cut wastages associated with the fraudulent petroleum subsidy regime.

Source: Guardian

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