Wale Edun, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, says the last time the foreign exchange (FX) rate was stable, and interest rates were affordable, was a decade ago.
Edun spoke about the state of the economy at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday.
He said a weak, depreciating exchange rate, as well as security concerns, resulted in an economy “that is not growing and that is not lifting our Nigerians out of poverty”.
“If we think back to when was the last time when the economy was stable, when it was growing, when inflation was low, when the exchange rate was stable, and when interest rates were affordable; that period was about a decade ago,” he said.
The minister said “economic growth was about 6 percent around 2013 to 2014”.
The increase, according to Ebun, was due to the worldwide commodity boom that began around 2010.
“Oil prices were high; volumes were high,” he said.
“Nigeria earned and the government earned into its coffers over $80 billion per annum, compared to the figure now of around $25 billion. So you can see the difference.
“And what that points to is that there was a time when government had enough foreign exchange. It had enough naira revenue to meet its obligations and to provide the funding for growth of the economy.
“It had enough foreign exchange such that when people came in to invest and they needed to import raw materials, import machinery, government could provide the wherewithal.”
‘GOVERNMENT SHOULD ALLOW PRIVATE FUNDING’
This, the minister said, indicates that if the government does not have the funds, it must facilitate and allow private funding.
He advised the government to accommodate other sources of funding, such as foreign direct investment, as well as domestic investment by Nigerians in all areas.
“And we saw some of that in Lagos. When Mr. President was governor of Lagos, he opened up the power sector to private investment, the road sector to private investment infrastructure, waste management, even cemeteries to private investment, because government did not have the funds,” he said.
“And they were those who were willing and able to provide jobs and grow the economy by making those investments.
“So, that is a pointer to the fundamentals of the president’s strategy, private investment and worldwide, there are huge flows of foreign direct investment, once you give investors the right conditions.
“Specifically, where are we headed, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has pointed out, in priority areas where he is going to take Nigeria. And his key priorities are to improve the lives of Nigerians by providing food security, by ending poverty.”
Edun said the president is concerned about job creation, access to capital, particularly consumer credit that makes foods affordable to the average Nigerian; and utilising human resources by focusing on inclusivity — women and youth.
In this manner, he said, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the economy and society.