by Segun Odeleye
Despite the drop in oil prices and the complaints by several governors of revenue shortfall from the federal purse, Nigeria’s minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has insisted that the country is not broke. She said that the Nigerian economy is growing positively.
Speaking on Tuesday at the 2014 Ministerial Platform in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala said: “If you look back two years ago, that title ‘is Nigeria broke?’ was written in a newspaper article, it is like people are trying to force Nigeria into brokerage. I think since two years, we have managed to keep things going.”
The minister said that the government was doing a lot to ensure that the volatility in the oil market does not affect the economy. She mentioned the fact that the FG has been budgeting below the existing oil price to help build buffers in case of uncertainty.
She said, “We are operating an economy that depends on a product that fluctuates with oil price and we don’t have the right to control the price. Just like you have in your own household, when the quantity diminishes or the price drops, you remember in 2007 to 2008, the price of oil dropped from $140 to $38.
“At that time, nobody asked if the country was broke because we had saved up $22bn in the Excess Crude Account and we were able to continue spending and to stablise the economy.”
The minister said that presently Nigeria was faced with fluctuations in quantity and price of oil, adding that it had affected the amount paid into government coffers.
She said, “Does that mean that the country is broke? We still have resources that we depend on; we still have the ability to tax. Sometimes, things need to be a little tighter, easier and we just have to weather it and manage ourselves but that does not amount to the country being broke.”
The finance minister said if government was not able to pay salaries to people and continue to manage, “then we can say that the country is broke but we have not gotten there yet.”