House Postpones Hearing on State of the Economy

As a result of the current 2014 budget defence by various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government in the two chambers of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives Committee on Finance has re-scheduled its planned hearing on state of the economy until further notice.
A statement by the clerk of the committee, Farouk Dawaki, said the hearing, which was earlier slated for today was cancelled but will be re-scheduled for a future date that will be communicated.
“The postponement was necessitated by the need to allow various ministries, departments, agencies and other affected stakeholders to continue with the 2014 budget defence before the standing committees of the National Assembly,” the statement said in part.
The committee Chairman, Dr. Abdumumini Jibrin, (APC, Kano), had last December 19, handed 50 questions on the state of the economy to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In January, the minister provided a 102-page reply to the questions.
However, the committee again raised concerns over some of the answers, arguing that the minister did not address some of the questions.
It, therefore, sought further clarifications and requested the minister to reappear before it. Areas the committee catalogued and requested clarifications included, facts and figures of government’s claims regarding its economic achievements, documentary evidence to support claims on the role of the manufacturing, real estate and housing sectors, areas where exact expenditure cuts were made in order to reduce recurrent expenditure for the years in question.
Others areas the committee demanded clarification included why the economy is growing but not creating enough jobs and comparative and alternate scenario of what the possible outcomes for the country might be of a higher debt-GDP ratio assuming a diligent focus on infrastructure development financing, using the borrowed funds.
Probable economic consequences of the country’s ranking, official figure of Nigerians in abject poverty, and the provisions of the repayment dates of loans collected for the execution of projects.
Equally, it sought answers on guidelines for borrowings by the government, percentage of loanable funds that went to the agriculture sector; the manufacturing sector and the capital market; a detailed performance report, including disbursement schedule and levels of implementation for each of the projects for which external borrowings were made; the specific economic disadvantages of a much higher external debt vis-à-vis a much lower domestic debt as well as the corresponding human development indices (such as the UNDP’s HDIs) in comparison with the economic growth ratings as those of Fitch, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s and information about her conclusions based on these comparisons.
It also demanded to have names of persons/companies who benefited from exemptions and waivers, and an answer as to whether Nigeria needs the services of a foreign company to analyze and improve its tax system.
On the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), the committee also sought to know the present cumulative value of Nigeria’s pension fund, which is similar to Norway’s Government Pension Fund; required clarification on MasterCard, and the multiplicity of public funds being sunk into the establishment of different identification systems by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the National Population Commission (NPC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Police Force, and the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) among others.
It also asked for the minister’s assessment of the conditions of mass transit buses/taxi cabs provided since 2012; government’s reason for the persistent poor implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P); provide documentary evidence on the disbursements of the FGN’s N200 billion intervention fund to the SMEs she referred to with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
On crude oil sales, the Committee demanded information on how much Nigeria had made in excess of the average benchmark price for 2011 to 2013, and wanted specific information on the management issues surrounding the Excess Crude Account (ECA), and all the other observations and requests it raised in the letter to the minister.
Dawaki’s statement reckoned that a new date would be announce soon after the conclusion of the Budget Defence exercise, as the committee “deeply regret inconveniences caused to all invitees and other stakeholders.”

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