By DAVID IORJA, Abuja –
As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across five continents of the world, President Muhammadu Buhari assured on Tuesday that Nigeria had foreseen the economic problems that may come in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and would explore all alternatives to protect her people.
The President spoke at State House, Abuja, during a briefing session by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), led by Professor Doyin Salami.
With oil prices oscillating between 29 and 30 dollars in recent times, as opposed to the 57 dollars benchmark for year 2020 Budget, President Buhari said many variables, including production cost and political impact, determine oil prices, “and we will see how to survive fallen prices, as we already envisaged the problem.”
According to the Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Femi Adesina, President Buhari explained that protecting the people from vagaries of international economic fortunes, and associated fallen prices of oil, is a priority of government, “and we will do our best to do so.”
Stressing the importance of education and healthcare, the President submitted that if people were adequately educated, “they won’t accept any form of mismanagement by leadership, nor would they allow themselves to be manipulated by those promoting ethnic and religious sentiments.”
He promised that inputs in agriculture, education and healthcare would continue as much as practicable.
In his briefing, Professor Salami, leading a team of PEAC members, painted sobering scenarios of what could happen to the Nigerian economy, if the Covid-19 pandemic lasted for too long. These include; slower growth, as the supply and demand sides of global economy would be affected, uncertainty, which would erode confidence, governments acting unilaterally instead of cooperatively, further drop in oil prices, and lockdowns gaining grounds around the world.
There would also be oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves, and rise in unemployment.
Noting that many countries round the world may go into economic recession, the PEAC advocated hard work for Nigeria to keep its head above the waters.
Recommending, among others, a possible revision of the 2020 Budget, with priority spending on healthcare, reprioritization of expenditure on
infrastructure to focus on projects nearing completion with pro-poor effects, curtailing recurrent expenditure, mobilizing the private sector to strengthen health sector infrastructure, and boosting of government revenue, the PEAC stressed that the projections may seem dire, but the worst may be avoided with hard work and scrupulous implementation of policies.