Nigeria finance minister pledges faster reforms

Nigeria’s new Finance Minister Shamsuddeen Usman said on Thursday he would accelerate economic transformation and sustain macro-economic stability achieved under a reform programme launched in 2003.

In his first news conference since taking office on July 26, Usman also said the government would amend the 2007 budget, mostly to fund a 15% public-sector pay rise.

Former central banker Usman said four years of reforms had achieved a level of stability and confidence in sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest economy.

“We, however, intend to accelerate and further heighten the economic transformation,” he said.

Two Bills have been submitted to the National Assembly to review the 2007 budget to finance a 15% public-sector pay increase promised by President Umaru Yar’Adua after a general strike in June, he said.

One amends existing 2007 expenditure by redirecting $1,35-billion away from capital projects, overheads and debt service to fund the $1,4-billion wage rise.

The other Bill proposes $609-million in new spending, mostly for the payment of severance benefits and contractor arrears as well as unspecified “additional reforms”, he said.—Reuters

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