ABUJAâ€”THE Coordinating Minister for the economy and Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo â€“Iweala, yesterday disclosed that with the countryâ€™s election looming, the 2015 would be a tough and brutal year in maintaining a strong macroeconomic performance the country has recorded in recent times.
Okonjoâ€“Iweala, however, assured that she is determined to ensure that the countryâ€™s strong macroeconomic performance of recent years and reform agenda do not slip.
The finance minister who realises that she will be targeted by opposition politicians jostling for power ahead of elections in February 2015 and keen to denounce the governmentâ€™s economic policies said, â€œIt will be brutal,â€ she tells The Banker in Abuja, â€œWeâ€™re going to see extreme bashing. Somebody has to be the scapegoat,â€ she added.
According to her, â€œNigeriaâ€™s strong macroeconomic performance in the past five years has seen its standing abroad rise considerably. Many frontier and emerging market investors crave exposure to the oil-rich West African countryâ€™s rapidly growing economy and population of 170 million, by far the largest in Africa.
Jim Oâ€™Neill, the influential former Goldman Sachs chief economist, has dubbed it, alongside Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, a MINT â€“ a group whose global significance he believes will only increase.â€
Yet for all the hype, Okonjo-Iweala knows that investors will be watching Nigeria closely to see that its reforms and its fiscal and monetary record do not unravel in the run up to voting.
To help ensure that does not happen, she has proposed a largely conservative budget for 2014. It forecasts a small deficit of 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and is based on a real growth rate of 6.75per cent , which is slightly below the International Monetary Fundâ€™s estimate. Total spending will be reduced by 7 per cent from 2013 to N4640billion ($28.5billion).