By Uche Amunike
The Senate, Tuesday, considered the potentials of Ministerial nominee, Wale Edun, who is the Special Adviser to President Bola Tinubu on Monetary Policies, in spearheading economic reforms at the federal level. They also drilled him to see if he had potentials to address the critical financial challenges facing the Nigerian economy and how he intends to turn it around for good.
In response, the Ogun State-born Wale Edun said that if he is given the portfolio of Minister of Finance, he will apply the Lagos experience of improved Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) at the national level.
He assured the lawmakers that President Bola Tinubu is a Democrat who believes in applying due process and the rule of law, adding that he will not breach the constitution appropriation by spending unapproved funds.
He also stated that the proposed palliatives mapped out on fuel subsidy removal will be sent to very poor Nigerians with the assistance of telecommunication network providers that promised to help the government with digital biometric validation of their beneficiaries.
He also submitted that the federal government is making foreign exchange market a priority and determined to address the current challenges that have caused the current situation that is not reflective of the efforts that have been put in so far, to make it stable.
Recall that Wale Edun has a track record in his days as Commissioner for Finance in Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, during the tenure of Bola Tinubu. This record particularly got the attention of the Senators.
Back then, Lagos state made N1.2bn revenue from its population of 10 million people. Wale’s financial expertise, actually led to the Lagos State internal revenue increasing to N6.9bn naira monthly, which was exactly a 469% increase in the economic turnaround in the state.
Wale Edun reeled out four major factors that helped in the Lagos financial success, during his screening. They were technology, the Public-Private Sector Partnership, Civil service reforms and financial markets.
On technology, he implied that it was important to have a strong commitment to technology, in order to boost revenue generation. He maintained that through its strategic application, efficiency was significantly improved and loopholes were plugged.
On civil service reforms Wale Edun pinpointed the total computerization of government operations, which led to a comprehensive civil service reform.
He spoke about how he relied on public-private partnership and how the private sector and private investment played an important role in driving the state’s economy.
He also threw light on the financial markets, saying that efficient use of financial markets made Lagos state have access to the domestic financial resources for long term financing which contributed to its economic progress.
Questions were raised about Nigeria’s rising debts and he was asked how he planned on addressing the issue as Minister of Finance.
He stated: ‘When you look at what has happened with revenue, it is like having a bucket with a hole in it and pouring water in it. The minute you block the hole, the revenue piles up. I’m sure your state governors will tell you that their fiscal situation has turned around and same with the federal government.’
‘It is not quite a question of how do we spend it, but I assure you, there will be a continuous improvement in the fiscal situation at the federal and state level and that takes care of the debt situation.’
He further explained that it was not a bad thing to owe, as long as there is revenue to service the debt, adding that it was left for President Bola Tinubu to curtail spending, to curtail inefficiencies and also operate within the law in terms of borrowing to finance government operations.
He threw light on some of their reservations about dragging the Nigerian economy back to life to become once more, the largest economy in Africa.
Hear him: ‘As regards the state of the economy, let us remember, where we have come from. In 1990, the wealth, the income per capita, the GDP per capita of Nigeria was higher than that of China as recently as 1990. Today, Chinese per capita income is $13,000 nearly while Nigeria’s is just over $2,000; so you can see the gap that has opened up and the reason why was that growth was stalled by insecurity, by inflation and by wasteful government expenditure to a large extent.’
‘However, in the last two months, there really has been a turnaround in the Nigerian economy, which is room for tremendous optimism. The subsidy removal and the exchange rate elimination of multiple windows has left us in a very strong perfect position to go forward.’
‘It is the concern that Mr. President has been raising, in the time between, the several months that it takes for the benefit of economic reform to come through, there is substantial economic pain and that’s why the task of government and the commitment of President Tinubu is to ensure that the poorest, the weakest and the most vulnerable in society are protected through that period.’
‘Distinguished Senators, it is not just a job for the federal government. The states have their role to play, the corporate sector has its role to play, individuals have their role to play.’