By Kingsley Okoye
The Federal Government on Tuesday sought the approval of Senate for concessionary external borrowing of 22.8 billion dollars for development of infrastructure across the country.
Minister of Finance and National Planing, Mrs Zainab Ahmed made the presentation on behalf of the federal government, when she appeared before Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.
Ahmed said the loan sought for was segmented into seven concessionary loans from multilateral institutions.
She said the loans which was part of the 2016 to 2018 external borrowing plan was designed to enhance productivity of the economy via development of roads, railway lines, electricity projects,agriculture among other sectors.
She said the loan sought for involved states and and federal government, noting that the state governments would be responsible for their own repayments.
According to her, the loan will also assist in provision of soft loan for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) in the country and ultimately improve employment generation in the country.
Ahmed said what Nigeria had was a revenue problem and not debt problem, noting that the nation’s revenue profile was sustainable.
This, she said was evidenced in the nation’s debt to Gross Domestic (GDP) sustainability ratio which stood at 25 per cent .
She said, if the loan sought for was approved and disbursed, the nation Debt to GDP sustainability index would be 20 per cent .
This, she said was below the World Bank threshold of 55 per cent.
She said the government was making frantic efforts to address the revenue challenge facing the nation.
Also present to defend the external borrowing plan of their states before the committee were officials of Kogi, Kaduna and Katsina governments.
The Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, Gbemisola Saraki , Lai Mohammed of Transport and Information Culture Ministries were also present to defend the borrowing plans of their ministries.
The Minster of Federal Capital Development Territory Mohammed Bello, also appeared before the committee to defend external borrowing plan request for the FCTA.
Chairman of the Committee, Mr Clifford Ordia said seven of the agencies of government were yet to respond to request of the committee to defend their borrowing plan request.
He said the delay on the loan approval was caused by inability of the agencies to respond to the invitation of the committee.