Nigeria's Budget Minister Udoma Udo Udoma speaks during the public presentation and breakdown of 2018 Appropriation Act in Abuja, Nigeria.

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has allayed the fears of Nigerians over the softening of the international oil prices, saying that the government willclosely monitor the events with a view to achieving targeted oil production.

According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to take all possible measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million.

“Notwithstanding the recent softening in international oil prices, the considered view of most reputable oil industry analysts is that the downward trend in recent months is not necessarily reflective of the outlook for 2019. However, we will closely monitor the situation and will respond to any changes in the international oil price outlook for 2019.

A development economist, Mr. Odilim Enwegbara, however, painted a gloomy picture of the 2019 budget, saying that despite the drop in oil price, the 2019 election expenses would impact negatively on the budget.

Enwegbara said: “2019 is going to be a challenging year for our country. The high cost of the 2019 elections and the high cost of transition from the present government to the new government will put too much pressure on the economy. The 2019/2020 budget will not be debated by the federal lawmakers before June 2019 when the 9th Assembly will convene.

“If there is a new president, which is likely to happen, then the new government will be forced to present an entirely new budget estimates different from the one recently presented by President Buhari since priorities will have to change. With these delays, the country’s debt will run out of hand to the extent that our debt service-to-revenue ratio will grow to 80 per cent during the 2019/2020 fiscal year.

“Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will be sluggish to the extent that if care is not taken, the economy will begin to head south again as it did starting from 2016 because of delay in putting an economic team in place. That makes the economy another candidate for recession.

“That is why 2019 presidential election is critical to the survival of this country, if not for anything, at least for averting both the potential recession and the impending economic bankruptcy with unemployment skyrocketing along with poverty figures.

As the government tries to contain the country’s social problems, it will have to grow its deficit spending, which will force the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to further increase its Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to keep government borrowing to continue uninterrupted.

The oil price for Brent crude oil in December was $56.55 per barrel.

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