May 12, 2016 - 7:21 PM EDT
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Govt to Concession Abuja, Lagos, Kano Airports

The federal government has concluded plans to go into concession arrangements with private investors to finance rehabilitation works in four of the country's four major airports namely, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and the Port Harcourt International Airport.

Also the Lagos-Calabar Railway project which was at the centre of the face-off between the executive and legislative arms of government during the budget approval process will be funded with N60 billion under the capital segment of the budget.

Minister of budget and national planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, made these disclosures yesterday while giving a breakdown of the 2016 budget and its implementation strategies at a session which had in attendance ministers, captains of industry, professionals, organized labour and media executives.

Udoma said the federal government would today commence the release of N350 billion earmarked for capital projects in the 2016 budget.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the total budget of N6.06trillion was signed into law last Friday by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Udoma said the deficit will be financed through fresh borrowings of N1.84 trillion, while N386 billion recovered from looted funds would also be injected into the economy.

The federal government, he said, is also looking at implementing the N6.06 trillion budget through a projected revenue accrual of N3.855 trillion which will be largely sourced from internally generated revenue of N1.51 trillion.

Senator Udoma said the projected growth in the government's revenue would be derived mainly from non-oil sources such as corporate tax, VAT and dividend from government corporations and independent revenue.

He said, "We have projected corporate taxes of N1.88 trillion in 2016 as against N1.42 trillion in 2015, and VAT collection of N1.48 trillion in 2016 as against that of N1.28 trillion in the previous year."

The budget and national planning minister said the Ministry Power, Works and Housing, headed by Babatunde Fashola, would gulp N456.93 billion for both recurrent and capital expenditure.

A further breakdown of the budget showed that Transportation was allocated N202.34 billion; Defence, N443.07 billion; Interior, N513.65 billion; Education N403.16 billion; Health, N250.06 billion; Agriculture, N75.80 billion; Solid Minerals, N16.73 billion; Youth and Sports Development, N75.79 billion and Water Resources, N53.30 billion.

Udoma noted that the 2016 budget was prepared amidst a 67 per cent decline in oil prices from mid-2014 to the end of 2015.

"The 2016 budget, entitled "Budget of Change", is the first full year budget of this administration. This budget has been prepared against the background of general slowdown in global economic growth and massive decline in crude oil prices.

"It will be recalled that crude oil exports had hitherto accounted for over 70 per cent of government revenues and over 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.

"To this end, government will actively support the use of public private partnerships in the development of infrastructure. We are encouraging our ministers to explore concession arrangements for airports, major roads and other infrastructure projects.

"As part of our efforts to encourage private sector participation in infrastructure, we are working to arrange for the establishment of an infrastructure fund, which we anticipate should be able to raise up to $25billion within three years," Udoma added.

He also listed several power projects designed to optimise and deliver consistently 7,000mw of power.

The minister stated that the budget would be implemented under six major strategic intervention areas to revive the economy.

"It is a strategic target for the 2016 fiscal year. The plan will place the economy on the upward trajectory as it is repositioned for change, inclusive growth and sustainable development."

Udoma listed the six areas as policy environment, national security and governance; economic diversification; priority critical infrastructure; oil and gas reforms; ease of doing business and social investment.

According to him, the government would achieve appropriate foreign exchange regime and increase low interest lending to the real sector.

In agriculture, the federal government had set deadlines to achieve self-sufficiency and net export of a certain number of agricultural produce and items to diversify the economy.

"Rice -2018, tomato paste - 2016, wheat - 2019 and increase local production of maize, soya, poultry and livestock, so as to achieve self-sufficiency but the deadlines will be announced in due course," he said.

Udoma further stated that the government will complete the Kaduna-Abuja and the Ajaokuta-Warri rail lines scheduled for 2016; revise the National Rail Master Plan and finalise negotiations for Lagos-Kano and Lagos-Calabar rail projects.

These, he noted, will ensure delivery of 2,193 kilometres of federal roads across 31 projects scheduled for 2016 (through public works and other interventions) and explore Private Public Partnership options for completing other projects.

The minister said the government will undertake the construction of 3,552 Mixed Housing Units as pilot scheme in the 36 states and FCT under the National Housing Programme in a secured and planned environment.

According to him, the government would adopt and execute a comprehensive National Oil and Gas Master Plan as the roadmap for petroleum industry's development, privatisation and governance.

"Government has revolved to work with the National Assembly to pass a revised Petroleum Industry Bill to privatise NNPC and ensure the regulation of the downstream sector," he noted, adding that it had set three-year deadline to be self-sufficient in refined petroleum products and become a net exporter.

On ease of doing business, he said it would work toward moving Nigeria 20 places up in the Ease of Doing Business Ranking and fast-tracking visa application and issuance processes.

The minister, however, assured Nigerians that the government would ensure effective implementation of the budget.

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Source: News (May 12, 2016 - 7:21 PM EDT)

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