COVID-19: We’ll explore all alternatives to protect our people – Buhari

Nigeria has foreseen the economic problems that may come in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and would explore all alternatives to protect the people, President Muhammadu Buhari, has said.

The president said this Tuesday at the State House in Abuja during a briefing session by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) led by Professor Doyin Salami.

With oil prices oscillating between 29 and 30 dollars in recent times, as opposed to the 57 dollars benchmark for year 2020 Budget.

He said many variables, including production cost and political impact, determine oil prices, “and we will see how to survive fallen prices, as we already envisaged the problem.”

He said protecting the people from vagaries of international economic fortunes, and associated fallen prices of oil, is a priority of government, “and we will do our best to do so.”

Stressing the importance of education and healthcare, the president said if people were adequately educated, “they won’t accept any form of mismanagement by leadership, nor would they allow themselves to be manipulated by those promoting ethnic and religious sentiments.”

The president promised that inputs in agriculture, education and healthcare would continue as much as practicable.

In his briefing, Professor Doyin Salami, leading a team of PEAC members, painted sobering scenarios of what could happen to the Nigerian economy if the Covid-19 pandemic lasted for too long, including slower growth, as the supply and demand sides of global economy would be affected, uncertainty, which would erode confidence, governments acting unilaterally instead of cooperatively, further drop in oil prices, and lockdowns gaining grounds around the world.

He said there would also be oil glut, trade imbalance, drop in foreign reserves, and rise in unemployment.

Stressing that many countries round the world may go into economic recession, the PEAC advocated hard work for Nigeria to keep its head above the waters.

He recommended, among others, a possible revision of the 2020 Budget, with priority spending on healthcare, reprioritization of expenditure on infrastructure to focus on projects nearing completion with pro-poor effects, curtailing recurrent expenditure, mobilizing the private sector to strengthen health sector infrastructure, and boosting of government revenue.

He said projections may seem dire, but the worst may be avoided with hard work and scrupulous implementation of policies.

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