“It is done! Thank you @WTO members for finalizing my election today and making history. But now the real work begins. Ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual!”
These were the words tweeted by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday evening, hours after she was appointed as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
It is done! Thank you @WTO members for finalizing my election today and making history. In the 73 years of GATT and WTO, honored to be First Woman and First African to lead. But now the real work begins. Ready to tackle the challenges of WTO. Forget Business as usual! pic.twitter.com/apnAalHWf5
— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) February 15, 2021
Some stakeholders, especially her critics, may be wondering what she meant by “Forget Business as usual.” The sentence could mean it was time for her to implement the reforms she had promised if appointed as the first female DG of the global trade body.
In one of the interviews granted in the heat of the contest in 2020, the two-time former Nigerian Finance Minister was emphatic that her reason for being optimistic to be crowned the next DG was that her negotiating skill was immeasurable as shown in her records.
Okonjo-Iweala had promised to contribute her quota to the African and world economy.
In her interview with Manuela Saragosa on Business Daily on BBC, she reeled out what her appointment meant for Africa and her plans for WTO.
She explained that the job was extremely important for Africa because the continent had never held the position, and African countries felt they could benefit better from the World Trading System.
She added that the continent had negotiated a monumental agreement (the African Continental Free Trade Agreement) to strengthen the economies of the continent and enable them to trade with each other better, as well as face the trading system of the world together.
She said, “Africa’s trade is about 3% of the world trade and that needs to increase. Having an African at the WTO is something that will benefit Africa but the intention I have is to make sure that all parts of the world benefits.”
- Debt relief for Africa
Though the former Nigerian Finance Minister appreciated the G-20 for the Debt standstill given to Africa, she explained that the debt standstill, which was shifted to the end of 2020, would not be sufficient. As far as she was concerned, China should be able to extend the standstill for a couple of years to enable the continent look at the debt sustainability issues.
She said, “The organization needs some reforms to make it relevant for times we are in and I have a reputation as a strong reformer. I have actually written a book titled ‘Reforming the Reformable,’ where we undertook certain reforms with a team in Nigeria. I am also a person with strong negotiation skills. I have a career of over 30 years for constantly been involved in negotiating an important agreement between countries.”
- US and China war
On how she intends to mend the fence between the US and China, she did not hesitate to outline what she thought was the problem and how to tackle it. She admitted that the task would be challenging but insisted that she relished it.
She said, “I relish the challenge of being able to build trust and I do hope that being an objective arbiter between US and China and as well as other member countries, I can help to find what the common interests are.
“I believe the Americans know that they have benefitted over time from the WTO and the World Trading System, and other countries have also benefitted. I think what is involved is being a good listener.
“It is important to listen to the concerns of the Americans, China, Europe, Africa, Asia and try to bring them to the table around a common interest. I strongly believe that this world we face today, we need a forum where one can bring common interests together. In spite of all the words we hear, there is a need to bring people together and bring trust around a shared interest.”
- Impacts of COVID-19 on African economies
Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that the virus had really illustrated some on-going trends in the world. According to her, the WTO could make contributions, as African nations looked at the supply chain and wondered what they would do about the health equipment, medical supplies and others.
She said, “I am quite worried and the reason is that African countries felt the economic impact of the pandemic first before they felt the health impact.
“There was a capital flight out of the continent; remittances fell, tourism fell. For the first time in 25 years, the continent’s economies were supposed to contrast by about 2%, so it is a heavy impact.
“The second thing is that the lockdowns and social distances took a toll on the economies. It also has an impact on informal sector workers, who have not been able to earn on a daily basis. It has impacted the lives of household and ordinary people.”
What you should know
- On Monday, Nairametrics reported that Okonjo-Iweala was appointed the first female DG of WTO, as announced by the global trade body.
- WTO tweeted, “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria is appointed as the next WTO Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala makes history as the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021.”
- 66-year-old Okonjo-Iweala, by her appointment, becomes the first woman to ever lead the Switzerland-based institution and the first African citizen to take on the role.
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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