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Cablegate: Nigeria: Road Map to Economic Reforms

VZCZCXRO7479
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1907/01 2471308
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041308Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0824
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 7803
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001907

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT PASS TO USTR (AGAMA)
DEPT OF TREASURY FOR RHALL, DPETERS

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EINV PGOV NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ROAD MAP TO ECONOMIC REFORMS

1. Summary. The Nigerian government (GON) has introduced new
policies hoping to accelerate growth and sustain macroeconomic
stability. The policies are in-line with the new administration's
mantra of upholding the constitution and following rule of law,
respect for due process, integrity, accountability and transparency.
Key components of the Road Map are institutional reform and
restructuring within the Ministry of Finance and its agencies;
establishing a Strategic Oil Revenue Reserve Fund; urging state
assemblies to adopt the Fiscal Responsibility Act and setting up
state debt management offices; reconstituting the Economic
Management Team (EMT); suspension of waivers in taxes, duties and
tariffs; greater participation of stakeholders in the budget
process; and review of the value-added-tax (VAT) in-line with ECOWAS
protocols. End Summary.

2. On August 23, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman, Minister of Finance,
unveiled "The New Road Map to Economic Reforms", with the goal of
guiding and accelerating the economic transformation process and
sustaining macroeconomic stability achieved under Nigeria's ongoing
reform program. Usman said the new policy follows closely President
Umar Yar'adua's objective of abiding by the constitution, holding to
the rule of law, respecting due process and increasing
accountability and transparency. The specific objectives of the
Road Map are to establish a Strategic Oil Revenue Reserve Fund; urge
state assemblies to adopt the Fiscal Responsibility Act while
setting up state debt management offices; reconstitute the Economic
Management Team (EMT); suspend tax waivers, duties and tariffs;
increase stakeholder participation in the budget process; and review
of the value-added-tax (VAT) in-line with ECOWAS protocols.
.
The Strategic Oil Revenue Reserve Fund
--------------------------------------
.
3. Establishment of a strategic oil revenue reserve fund is aimed at
reducing government revenue volatility and expenditure, and
encouraging savings. The plan is for the three-tiers of government
to agree on a constitutional means to save and manage windfall oil
revenues above the budgeted price benchmark. Nigeria already has an
excess crude account; however, account management has been
challenged in court because claimants argue that the federal
government has no constitutional authority to withhold funds from
the states.
.
Fiscal Responsibility and Appropriations
----------------------------------------
.
4. Usman reported President Yar'Adua was yet to sign the fiscal
responsibility bill passed by the previous national assembly. The
President has delayed signing the bill, ordered further analysis and
is encouraging the 36 state governors to pass similar legislation.

5. Usman disclosed that the GON had submitted two bills to the
national assembly requesting additional funds for the 2007 budget.
The first bill will divert 172.8 billion naira ($1.35 billion) from
capital projects, overheads and debt service to finance a 15% 179.2
billion naira ($1.4 billion) public sector pay rise promised by
President Yar'Adua after the June 2007 general strike. The second
bill will spend $609 million on the payment of severance benefits
and contractor arrears.
.
New Economic Team
------------------
.
6. Usman announced that the Economic Management Team (EMT) has been
reconstituted and its membership reduced from 28 to 13 with the
Minister of Finance as chairman. The EMT would become a think tank
and the President approved the private sector inclusion of the
Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Nigerian Economic
Society (NES).
The first EMT assignment is to develop specific, measurable and
timely economic programs from the President's 7-point agenda from
his inaugural speech.
.
Other Policy Measures
---------------------
.
7. The GON suspended the issuance of waivers or exemptions from
payment of taxes, duties, or other tariffs from August 23 and
appointed two international audit firms to review the validity of
all waivers and exemptions already granted, and calculate total
revenue loss to the GON.

8. The Road Map includes reforming the Nigerian tax system to
enhance revenue collection and improve policy coordination between
the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and relevant departments
in the Finance Ministry; and increasing stakeholder participation by
all tiers of government in the national budget process.

ABUJA 00001907 002 OF 002

9. The Finance Ministry also plans to overhaul the Nigeria Custom
Service (NCS) and produce a comprehensive tariff document to reduce
delays at ports from two weeks to a few days; and reviewing the
value-added-tax (VAT) to ensure compliance with ECOWAS protocols.
.
Comment
-------
.
10. The Road Map to Economic Reforms may consolidate economic
reforms made during former President Obasanjo's second term. The
Obasanjo administration grouped its objectives, policies and
programs into the National Economic Empowerment and Development
Strategy (NEEDS) document. The NEEDS program was thoroughly
evaluated and received national consensus, however, Yar'Adua's
administration, 100 days in office, has yet to demonstrate interest
in transforming NEEDS I to NEEDS II. Nigerian history is replete
with examples of incoming administrations "reinventing the wheel"
and valuable time and effort will be lost if Yar'adua's
administration comes up with its own version of NEEDS. There remain
significant challenges in improving domestic business environment
and in extending reform policies to states and local governments.

GRIBBIN

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