As the jostle for the top job at the World Trade Organization (WTO) becomes more intense, the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has disclosed some of her plans for the institution. The former Nigerian Finance Minister recently had an exclusive interview with CNBC Africa.
Speaking during the interview, Mrs Iweala revealed how she hopes to resolve the rift between the United States of America and China, the 2 biggest economies in the world, especially as regards trade issues. She also noted that part of her vision is to build a trade institution where there is greater trust among its members. She also stressed that the WTO, at this critical time, is needed to ensure that trade and global markets remain open.
On healing the rift between the US and China, Okonjo-Iweala admitted that it is going to be challenging and not be easy. She said:
“Well this is not going to be easy, if it was easy, it could have been done a long time since. So it would be very challenging but it is not an impossible job. It is very clear that both the US and China have been helped and benefitted from the multilateral trading system in the past. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. They have experienced shared prosperity in the economies and their countries.’’
The Nigerian candidate pointed out that it is important to remind the US and China of this shared prosperity. She then disclosed that she would listen to both countries to find out what really are the issues causing distrust among them. She said that she will not want to be involved in the larger political problems, but will rather separate the trade issues and focus on them and build this trust.
Going further on how to settle their rift, Okonjo-Iweala said, “You need to begin to find areas where there can be confidence-building and trade. Building trust is not talking about it, you have to have areas where both can work together and agree and we have a golden opportunity in the fisheries subsidies negotiations that are going on now because the US is a party to it, China is a party, the EU, all other members.’’
“It is a multilateral negotiation, so if they can sit around the table with others to negotiate this and have a successful outcome, that is one thing that will be shared in common between the 2. So that will begin to build confidence. Then reaching out both in the US and in China to talk to the policymakers, go where the decisions are made, talk to congress also in the US and begin to show the benefits of the system again.’’
She also said they will look at reasons why they need to work together because their rift may be causing negative externalities for other members. She is of the opinion that exposing all of these, working with them, and listening carefully will begin to build confidence.
She believes that while achieving this will be difficult, focusing seriously on trade issues can create room for a breakthrough.
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Senate endorses ex-Service Chiefs as Non-career Ambassadors
The Senate has confirmed President Buhari’s nomination of the immediate past service chiefs as non-career ambassadors.
The Nigerian Senate has endorsed the nomination of the past serving Military Service Chiefs as Non-career Ambassadors.
This was confirmed during Tuesday’s plenary session and announced in a social media statement by the Nigerian Senate.
Their confirmation follows the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chaired by Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa.
According to reports, the Senate Minority Leader Enyinaya Abaribe, however, questioned the nomination and confirmation of the ex-service chiefs when the Senate had on 3 different occasions called for their sack.
Senator Abaribe also raised issues on the petitions against the former service chiefs and questioned why they were dismissed without explanations.
But Senate President Ahmad Lawan dismissed Senator Abaribe’s concerns, ruling that the nomination of the former service chiefs cannot be nullified simply because the upper chamber had called for their sack, noting that this is totally a different assignment.
In his concluding statement, the Senate President, Senator Lawan added that these nominees that have just been confirmed have served this country to the best of their abilities. He appealed to the executive to make sure they use their experience as military men to the best.
“These nominees that we have just confirmed are nominees that have served this country to the best of their ability. Our appeal to the Executive is to make sure they use their experiences as military men to the best,” Lawan said.
Lawan, on behalf of the senate, wished them a very successful career in their capacity as Non-Career Ambassadors.
What you should know
- Recall Nairametrics reported earlier this month that President Muhammadu Buhari nominated ex-Service Chiefs for Senate approval as non-career Ambassadors-Designate.
- Their appointment came barely a week after their retirement as service chiefs and their replacement with new ones.
- This led to a spate of criticisms from some Nigerians who felt that the nation’s security situation got worse under their watch.
- They were reported to have tendered their resignation from their positions amid heightened calls that they should be sacked due to the increasing rate of insecurity across the country.
2020 budget performance: FG achieves 89% capital release in December 2020
The Minister of Finance has revealed that the FG achieved 89% release of the capital component of the 2020 budget to MDAs as of December 2020.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has revealed that the Federal Government achieved 89% release of the capital component of the 2020 budget to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as of December 2020.
She said that the 89% capital funding for MDAs was achieved with the release of N1.74 trillion.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), this disclosure was made by Ahmed at an interactive session with the leadership of the National Assembly on Monday, February 22, 2021.
She also revealed that the government had disbursed N118.37 billion for Covid-19 capital expenditure from the fund.
What the Minister for Finance is saying
Ahmed said the Nigerian economy faced serious challenges in 2020, with the macroeconomic environment significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said this led to a 65% drop in projected net 2020 government revenues from the oil and gas sector, which adversely affected foreign exchange inflows into the economy.
On the delayed release of funds to implement the 2020 capital budget until March 31, the Minister said the complaint had decreased.
She said, “I think the complaint was earlier in the year when we were trying to transfer the balances. As far as I know, in the past three weeks, I haven’t heard any such complaints and we have been able to address them.
“But when we started the transfers, we couldn’t transfer to some agencies because of some limitations in the system, but we have since been able to transfer the capital component that is being utilised by the agencies budget to the system.”
While pointing out that the implementation of the MDAs projects was tied to procurement processes and capacity of the MDA, Ahmed also said the extension of the 2020 capital budget implementation to March 31 had recorded 30% performance as at January.
However, Ahmed said that she expected that the extension would record 100% performance in March.
Speaking during the interaction, the Senate’s Chief Whip, Senator Orji-Uzor Kalu, commended the Minister on the capital performance of the 2020 budget.
He said, “I want to commend the minister and her team because this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that by December 31, we are having 89% performance expenditure of the budget. It has never happened before; Last year was the very first.
“The budget had been going 49%, 27%; this means from what the Senate President was asking, it means by March, we should be looking at implementing the budget 100%.’’
Earlier, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the meeting was to get an update on the capital implementation of the 2020 budget given its extension for implementation by the national assembly to March 31.
What this means
- The 89% capital release for the 2020 budget as of December 2020 is quite encouraging as it occurred despite the economic challenges and disruption caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
- There seems to be an improved effort by the Federal Government at the budgeting process with the early passage of the 2021 budget and the implementation of the capital component of the 2020 budget.
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