Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has promised Nigerians that the federal government will in the course of the year create two million jobs in addition to the over 1.6 million it created in 2013 to solve the issue of inequality and tackle the issue of unemployment in the country.
Speaking, weekend, at the South-east and South-south Professional Forum in Lagos, Okonjo-Iweala said the economic growth recorded in the past few years had come with its own inequality, adding that government was aware that the various economic indices have barely translated into better welfare for the people.
“To this end, the current administration is working hard to provide more jobs to raise people out of poverty.
“We need to create two million plus jobs and we need to work harder on this,” she said, stressing that inequality was common feature for rapidly growing economies, that the rate of inequality is equally high in countries like South Africa and Brazil.
She noted that in the realisation of this, government had come up with social safety nets for the vulnerable in the society, like pregnant women and education of the girl child, which according to her, will be broadened to as many groups as possible.
Speaking on budget implementation, the minister said it was quite a difficult task given the numerous cycles the budget process goes through.
She announced that the current administration was striving to institute a budget process which will ensure implementation right at the beginning of the year.
“We are breaking some of the cycles. We are getting more of meeting of minds between the executive and the National Assembly so that the issue of oil benchmark can be settled well enough before the presentation of the budget,” she pointed out.
She said one impediment to budget implementation wass revenue challenges, adding that “we can only implement to the extent that revenue comes in.”
The minister said she agreed with those who opined that the introduction of waivers had impacted on tariff revenue collection, but said trade-offs had to be made between short-term revenue collection and long-term industrial development.
“We have to weigh the balance between collecting customs revenues today, versus providing incentives to our private sector to stimulate growth and job creation,” she explained.
Okonjo-Iweala stressed that the current administration should be given credit for the economic growth of over 6 percent as against the 1 percent recorded in the 80s, that government is working to ensure that the growth must happen in the right sectors for impact.
She also spoke about roads in the South East and South South regions, assuring the forum that government was aware of the challenges and was working to ensure the completion of the East-West road which she says is the most difficult and expensive road to build. Regardless of the difficulties faced, the minister however assured the people of the region that the road will be completed soon.
On the second River Niger Bridge, she said the Sovereign Wealth Fund and other investors had taken interest in the construction of the bridge.