Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed
  • Assures on minimum wage payment

BY COBHAM NSA, ABUJA – Determined to give full effect to the January – December budget circle and ensure the 2020 budget takes off smoothly on January 1, the Federal Government says there will be no more releases for 2019 capital projects.

This is as the government dismissed misconceptions about the new Finance Bill, assuring that its overall target is to generally improve business environment in the country rather than focusing on so-called increased taxes.

Speaking at the public presentation of the 2020 budget breakdown in Abuja on Thursday, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said stopping further actions on 2019 budget is the government’s way of preparing adequately for effective and scheduled implementation of next year’s budget.

Mrs Ahmed however said with about N1.212 trillion so far released for capital projects, the focus now to deliver on those projects whose processing and documentations for releases have reached advance stages.

“We will not be making any more releases before the end of the year. We are not doing any more releases. However, there are some in various stages of processing that would be completed. The 2020 budget takes effect from January 1 2020”, she said

The Minister explained that funding releases for capital projects in 2019 budget placed priority on critical ongoing projects in rail, roads, power and agriculture sectors, adding that going forward, this positive trajectory will be sustained to improve existing infrastructure across the country.

Mrs Ahmed also said government will continue to focus attention on debt servicing as well as implementation of non-debt recurrent expenditure, particularly payment of workers’ salaries and emoluments of pensioners in the 2020 budget.

The Minister, who expressed confidence that all necessary measures have been put in place for the 2020 budget to take off smoothly on January 1, 2020, said government plans to release guidelines that will enhance seamless and effective budget implementation and delivery next year.

According to her, the projected N8.42 trillion revenue is 3.2 per cent or N263.94 billion above the executive proposal, and 10.9 per cent more than the 2019 Budget of N7.59 trillion).

She further stated that as part of the present administration’s efforts to promote and sustain fiscal transparency and accountability, the budget of 10 major Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs) have been fully integrated in the Federal Government budget with effect from 2020.

On the revenue side, Mrs Ahmed admitted that the budget size has been seriously constrained by relatively low revenues, but said 44 per cent of government projected income is expected to come from oil-related sources with the remaining 56 per cent accruing from non-oil sources.

The Minister also gave insight about the Finance Bill and the requirement of Tax Identification Number (TIN) to operate a bank account, explaining all provisions of the bill would not be implemented in one fell swoop from January 1, 2020 .

She said the government would engage commercial banks and all relevant stakeholders on the modalities for a smooth and effective implementation of the TIN requirement before its full commencement next year.

Mrs Ahmed disclosed that there are about 83 modifications in the Finance Bill meant to improve the nation’s business environment, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), adding; “Until the Finance Bill is assented into law, the measures we are taking are just plans for now. 

“We are confident that within this week, Mr President will have this bill from the National Assembly and he will normally ask various ministries to review and advise him before he signs.”

Responding to a question on government’s disposition towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate in relations to population growth rate, the Minister said all necessary steps are being taken to boost GDP growth rate to about seven per cent in order to tackle emerging economic challenges in the country.

The Minister also assured that adequate provisions have been made in the 2020 budget to take care of the new minimum wage payment, adding that government is fully prepared to pay the arrears for consequential adjustments on the new salary structure by December 2019 ending.

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