Saraki highlights measures to end recession •Begins debate today

SENATE President, Dr Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday, highlighted measures aimed at lifting the country out of the current economic crisis, adding that when implemented, the nation would certainly come out of economic recession.

Saraki, in an address to welcome senators back from a two-month recess, said Nigerians wanted the Federal Government to urgently take measures that would bring the country out of recession,  rather than orchestrating a blame game.

He said measures to be urgently taken included raising capital from assets sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves, which  had continued to deplete from the peak of over $40 billion in 2007.

He also suggested other measures, including that the Federal Government should carry out part sale of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Holdings, privatisation and concession of major/regional airports and refineries as well as adopting the dialogue approach in solving the Niger Delta crisis.

“It is clear to me that when people are desperately hungry, what they need is leadership with a clear vision; leadership whose daily actions reflect the very urgency of their condition. Therefore, our response to the current challenge must be dictated by the urgency of the hardship that the people suffer on a daily basis.

“The executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that government is ready to partner with the private sector towards economic revival. This is a critical signpost towards market confidence, which is a key ingredient to help us revamp the economy out of recession

“The executive must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilise the economy. The measures should include part sale of NLNG holdings; reduction of government share in upstream oil joint venture operations; sale of government stake in financial institutions, e.g. Africa Finance Corporation and the privatisation and concession of major/regional airports and refineries.

“The executive must consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards, to to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.

“The executive and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy and harmonise monetary and fiscal policy until economic recovery is attained. We must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector.

“The executive must re-tool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and introduce export-financing initiatives.

“The executive is urged to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region. The National Assembly is very ready to play any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win, in order to move the region and the economy forward.

“The executive must, as a deliberate response, consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy,” Saraki said.

The Senate president added that while government worked on the medium to long-term plans, immediate strategies must be devised that would ease the suffering of the ordinary people across the country.

He stressed that  “particular attention should be given to citizens in IDP camps. The images emerging from this zone of deprivation and hunger is no longer acceptable. Government should accelerate interim measures to provide social safety-nets to our people and assuage current high level of misery in the land. Such intervention should seek to fully execute the social spending framework already provided in the 2016 budget.”

The Senate will, however, commence a debate on economic recession today, while also featuring a briefing  by an economic expert at the plenary.