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Rising debt profile ‘necessary burden’ – Lawan

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SENATE President, Ahmad Lawan, has described the country’s rising debt profile as a “necessary burden” to keep a “stagnated” economy moving.

Recall that the Debt Management Office (DMO) had yesterday said Nigeria’s debt hit N33.10 trillion.

But speaking today at a media briefing on the 2nd anniversary of the Ninth Senate in Abuja, Lawan acknowledged that the country’s debt burden was “too heavy”.

He, however, said the loans were necessary because the federal government, with the current state of the economy, could not afford to raise taxes to fund infrastructure which, he said, was a must for the country.

He said: “Many Nigerians feel that the debt burden is too heavy.

“Honestly, it is. But permit me to have an opinion. It is a necessary burden because to do otherwise will be irresponsible of any government to keep an economy that is stagnated.

“We have to move on. But we must ensure also that those projects, when completed, are to generate revenue to pay for the debt.”

Lawan said amidst the falling revenue, responsible borrowing remained the only option for the federation government to build roads and other amenities that would boost the economy.

He said, “Many Nigerians are talking about the country’s debt profile. Before us in the Senate are two requests from the executive arm of government for loans that we have already approved to fund the 2021 budget.

“The N32.9trn is not only for the federal government. Part of it belongs to the states. It is just that the federal government gives the guarantee.

“Let us imagine a scenario where we have no money as a country and yet for us to develop, the country would need to build infrastructure.

“What we have to do is to raise funds and there are so many ways to do this. Are we going to raise taxes? Can we afford to raise taxes in the current situation for us to fund the infrastructure and it is a must to have infrastructure like roads, railways and so on?

“Definitely one option is out, and that is not to do anything. We cannot afford not to construct roads and other social amenities that would boost our economy.

“We cannot afford to raise taxes. The only option is to borrow, and to borrow, responsibly.

“Before we borrow, we have to identify those essential infrastructures that we need to provide for our economy to grow.

“The job of the National Assembly is to look at the request and check whether those projects are identified as essential projects for funding with the loan.

“We have to ensure the fair distribution of the projects because Nigeria is so large but we have to touch every part. We have to carry every segment of the country along.

“Before we approved the loans, our committee on foreign and domestic debts went to see the areas covered in the loans. We have also started oversight functions to ensure judicious utilisation of the loans in the overall interest of Nigerians.”

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