Oniha: FG working on ways to avoid debt crisis

Patience Oniha, director general of the Debt Management Office (DMO), says the federal government is working on generating long-term revenue to avoid a debt crisis.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines of the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, Oniha said Nigeria is not currently experiencing a debt crisis.

“Debt crisis means your ability to service your debt which is what we are talking about. We can’t stop talking about it, the figures are there, we are not generating as much revenue as we should. When you compare your revenue to your GDP, it’s low,” she said.

“We can’t run from the fact that we need to generate more revenue.

“Generating more revenue does not mean we should focus only on increasing production in the Niger Delta or praying for oil prices to rise, we have to generate long-term revenue. How do you generate that?

“You have to enforce compliance, which is all about increasing the tax base and making sure that those who are paying are paying the correct amount and not just paying a small amount to escape. The option that was talked about here about raising taxes.”

When asked about the debt issuance for the 2018 budget, Oniha said the loans would be taken according to the 2018 budget.

In his own remarks, Udoma Udo Udoma, minister of budget and national planning, said the economic recovery and growth plan will help the economy withstand any external shocks.

“I agree with the IMF that appropriate policies are needed to enhance the resilience of the region from all forms of vulnerabilities, create more jobs for the rising youth population and raise per capita income.

“In Nigeria’s ERGP, we target to create about 15 million jobs by 2020. We intend to achieve this principally by stimulating the private sector.”

Udoma said he shared the IMF’s thoughts on the need to constantly monitor debt levels.

“Even though we, in Nigeria, have one of the lowest debt levels among our African peers, we realise that we need to improve our revenues to bring down our debt service to revenue ratios to more comfortable levels.”