Finance Minister opposes independent budget office

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ngozi_okonjo-iweala3Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says the Nigerian economy did not need a budget office independent of the finance ministry for now.

Okonjo-Iweala, who said this while fielding questions at the ongoing 2013 Ministerial Platform in Abuja on Monday, assured that there was nothing personal about opposing the independence of the Budget Office.

The minister said that the Nigerian budgeting system was still heavily dependent on government spending and as such was not big enough to deserve an independent office.

She urged those clamouring for an independent budget office to take a critical look at the structure of the economy.

She said that Nigeria should adopt a system that suited its structure.

“We should look at the present structure of the Nigerian economy to know what the appropriate measures are and the appropriate ways of managing our institutions to suit this country.

“We can’t just adopt what we see elsewhere when the structure of our economy is different; this is a country very dependent on government expenditure to run.

“It’s not that we are against it, we are simply saying that the time is not ripe this economy is not structured like the American economy at this stage in our history, the American economy is largely driven by the private sector, so the budget doesn’t look that large that is what we are saying.“

On the whether government would consider a bailout fund for the oil and gas sector, Iweala said that the government was yet to contemplate giving funds to investors in the sector.

She spoke of the need for Nigeria to begin to create resources on long and medium term basis so that government would have no need to consider bailout funds.

She said the oil and gas industry as structured today should be able to attract the required quantum of resources to drive development in the industry.

Okonjo-Iweala, however, said that government would on its part create viable institutions to support oil field operations like it had done in the housing and other sectors of the economy.

The minister also said that her reported removal as the Chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service would affect relations between the ministry and the service.

She said that though the ministry was yet to receive any correspondence or advice in relation to the reported action by the Senate, her role as the finance minister was still intact.

Iweala said that the mandate of the office of the minister of finance was to manage the economy properly and not to insist on being on the board of NCS.

She said that individuals and institutions should always strive to do the best at all times and should avoid putting personalities at the top of very sensitive decisions.

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