Nigeria Is A Poor Country But Potentially Rich — Ben Akabueze

The director-general of the budget office of the federation, Ben Akabueze says Nigeria is a poor but potentially rich nation.

Akabueze, speaking during an interview on Channels TV on Thursday, said a poor country needs several considerations before raising itself from its condition.

He pronounced that one of such considerations is taking loans to foster commercial activities and upgrade revenue.

According to Akabueze, Nigeria’s present condition fits the definition of poverty as the country does not have enough resources to meet its increasing needs.

“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 – when the resources you have cannot cover your needs, you are poor,” he said.

“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, the government cannot say or throw its hands in the air and say ‘we don’t have money.”

“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.

“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, that you can do so.”

The budget DG said the country’s debt profile has grown due to poor exchange rate.

Akabueze mentioned that Nigeria had battled recessions in the past, which has damaged economic activities and revenue.

“It is also true that the government has taken loans substantially since 2015. First, there was a recession in 2016/2017. Then, in 2015, oil prices sank, leading up to 2016,” he added.

“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.”

His comment allineate with that of Senate President Ahmad Lawan following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.

The senate president said the country is “poor” with available alternatives.

“Our options are very limited as a country. First, we don’t have the necessary revenues. Nigeria is poor; we shouldn’t deceive ourselves,” Lawan had said.

“Nigeria is not rich, given the circumstances we live in, given the challenges we have. Our resources are so low; our revenues are so low, and therefore, the option of not doing anything, just to sit — because we have no money, we shouldn’t go for infrastructure development — is not even an option worthy of consideration.”