Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday threw her weight behind the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s war against corruption.
This is just as she disclosed that Nigeria must reduce its over-reliance on oil, amid sharp fall in the price of the commodity, which has badly affected the revenue of Africa’s biggest economy.
The IMF chief, who kicked off the New Year with a visit to Nigeria, after holding talks with President Buhari at the State House, Abuja, also said she was not in the country to negotiate a loan.
While supporting what she termed Buhari’s “very important” fight against corruption, Ms Lagarde said the president’s reform push could have a positive impact across West Africa.
“His determination to bring about transparency and accountability at all levels of the economy were very important agenda items and very ambitious goals that need to be delivered upon”, Lagarde told State House correspondents.
Buhari, who presented his first budget christened “budget of change” before a joint session of the National Assembly last month, based it on a crude oil benchmark of $38 per barrel but a low decline in the price of oil in the international market (below the benchmark), is threatening the implementation of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
With a record budget for 2016 – N6.08 trillion – forecasting a doubling of the deficit to 2.2 trillion naira ($11 billion) and a tripling of capital expenditure intended to help stimulate the economy, Ms. Lagarde proposed that other revenue sources be explored in order to make up for the shortfall as a result of oil price decline.
The IMF boss said she discussed the challenges posed by the falling oil price with President Buhari and the need for fiscal discipline.
“The short term fiscal situation… requires that revenue sources be identified in order to compensate the shortfall resulting from the oil price decline”, she added.
Later, the IMF Managing Director posted a tweet using her verified Twitter handle @Lagarde to express how impressed she was with government’s response to challenge of sustained, low oil prices.