Uyo — Worried by the effect of the COVID-19 on the economy, the federal government yesterday tasked financial managers to be prudent, transparent and efficient in the handling of the scarce resources in the country.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, gave the task at the 4th National Treasury Workshop organised by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation going on in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.
The three-day workshop has as its theme, "COVID-19 and the Global Economy: Implications on Nigeria's National Treasury",
The finance minister, who was represented by Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, stressed that financial managers should devised better and more effective administrative plans to enlighten the subordinates on the reality of funds paucity staring on the face of the nation.
Federal Government, she said has spent N2.3 trillion as stimulus package to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The minister noted that the workshop would examine policies and measures to enhance economic recovery under this COVID-19 era.
"In spite of the impact of COVID-19 and dwindling revenue from oil, our strategy was to expand government's activities to cushion the effect of the pandemic with the total estimated stimulus package by the federal government of Nigeria of N2.3 trillion.
"These packages consisted, to a large extent, of a combination of fiscal and monetary policies, sectoral interventions, and social programmes.
"The fiscal and monetary policies were support to states, businesses, households and individuals through grants, tax relief, payroll support, tariff reductions, and direct support to health sector.
"The real sector interventions were focused on mass agriculture, mass housing, public works, off-grid solar power installations and support to small businesses" she said.
The minister explained that those interventions created a large numbers of jobs, empowered farmers and entrepreneurs, conserved foreign exchange and provided guaranteed off-take of output, especially in agriculture and housing.
According to her, in spite of the COVID-19 challenges, Nigeria is still the largest economy and most populous in Africa saying the federal government would continue to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari led-administration, she said was committed to attracting and supporting foreign direct investments and partnerships in the country.
"The government is creating an enabling macroeconomic environment by eliminating barriers and putting in place many incentives to attract investments.
She said the theme of the workshop was apt and effectively captured the mood of the nation, giving the dwindling revenue of the country and the attendant challenges on the cash flow occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr.Udom Emmanuel, said the state government has set up Post-COVID-19 Economic Advisory Committee made up professionals to advise government on the way forward.
Represented by his deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo, the governor said, government has started implementing some of the committee recommendations, such as the applications of ICT and other tools of technology to stimulate entrepreneurial drives amongst the people.
"Today, even though we still have work to do, our youths have positive expressions in the use of their hands and creative abilities to create sustainable living for themselves, using technology as a means of engagement.
"I am very hopeful that this workshop will, also come up with ideas and approaches to stimulate and grow our economy in new world trust upon us by COVID-19 pandemic,", he said.
The Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris had earlier said the workshop would provide financial shock-absorber to government on how to manage any pandemic induced financial challenges.
Also, he posited that the workshop would enlighten financial managers in government on how to control aggregate cash flows within fiscal, monetary and legal limits that would lead to improvement in the management of critical government borrowings and deploying same to infrastructure.