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Borrowing: Budget Office supports Lawan, describes Nigeria as poor nation

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Barely 24 hours after Senate President Ahmad Lawan claimed that Nigeria is a poor nation that the budget office of the federation confirmed the true state of the country.

Lawan who described the country as an impoverished nation noted that it has no option but borrow to fund its infrastructure development.

Reacting to the Senate president’s claim, the director-general of the BOF, Ben Akabueze, said Nigerians must admit that their country is poor and only potentially rich.

Akabueze who noted this while featuring on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television added that the country must keep borrowing to spend its way out of recession.

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He said: “It is important, first of all, for that point to sink into Nigerians that we are not a rich country; we are a potentially rich country. But the reality today is that we are a poor country because looking at the definition of poverty is, when the resources you have simply cannot cover your needs you are poor.

At the level of individuals, sometimes the decision as to what you do is easier. But at the level of a nation, it is not that straightforward. At the level of a nation, the government has certain mandatory obligations. For instance, the Constitution says the primary duty or function of government is the security and welfare of the people.

“So, if the security of the people is threatened, government cannot say or throw its hands in the air and say ‘we don’t have money, therefore, there is nothing doing.

“There are mandatory obligations that government has to the people which it has to figure out a way to deal with. And globally, borrowing is one of the ways that government does that as long as the government has its eyes on sustainability.

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“It will be hard to find that country around the world that does not borrow. So, borrowing per se is not an issue; and sustainability is simply about putting your eyes on making sure that when it is time to pay up the debt that you borrowed (sic), that you can do so.”

Answering questions on repayment of loans during revenue shortfall and how Nigeria’s debt profile has skyrocketed under the present regime compared to the last administration, the BOF boss said the exchange rate between naira and dollar before and now are not the same.

Akabueze said: “It is also true that government has taken loans substantially since 2015. First, there was recession in 2016/2017. If you recall in 2015, oil prices sank, leading up to 2016. That triggered recession for many oil producing and oil dependent economies.

“That creates the need to borrow. When an economy goes into recession – and that is part of what I was saying that a nation is not the same as an individual – nations tend to act counter cyclically.

“When you find yourself in a recession, the time-tested way to get out of recession is to what we call ‘spending your way out of recession.”

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