Your Excellency, on behalf of my Distinguished and Honourable colleagues, I warmly welcome you and your entourage to the National Assembly. Your historic visit today, is a testament of the importance you attach to the role of the legislature in the attainment of economic development policies.
Your Excellency, your visit in this New Year is very auspicious as we begin to deliberate on the 2016 Appropriation Bill as the world economy rebalances in response to falling commodity prices, in particular oil.
Your Excellency, this National Assembly congratulates you and appreciates the new IMF recognition of the pivotal role parliamentarians could play in forging sustainable development policies for the attainment of the IMF mandate. To me this is critical to minimizing the erroneous perception on IMF policy prescriptions and conditionalities that have been entrenched over the years especially in Africa.
This, I believe, is vital to the success of the Fund’s policies and programmes not only now but also in the future. As legislators, we play an important role in making our people understand IMF advice, policy trade-offs, consultations and other engagements, so that ownership, transparency and accountability are brought to bear in economic policy choices.
Since the year 2000 when the IMF/World Bank Group founded the Parliamentary Network which is an independent, non-governmental organisation, participation in the programmes has been on the rise by legislators from all over the World. We commend the initiative. This outreach to legislators is a win-win situation since one of the objectives is to familiarize the legislators with the rationale behind the IMF advisory.
We recommend that IMF should further strengthen this network as a veritable tool towards greater convergence of understanding and engagement.
Here at home, the effect of the low oil prices on government revenue is challenging us to think out of the box in funding the repair of infrastructure, boosting employment, and securing our borders and people. These are no mean tasks and we welcome the support of our friends in this trying period.
Our economic fundamentals remain robust and the economy is resilient to absorb the current oil price shock. The situation is bringing out the entrepreneurship in us. Our private sector is also rising to the challenge. We assure you we will use this occasion to build a new economy diversified away from the perennial effects of oil price shocks.
The 8th National Assembly will provide the legislative leadership in ensuring a conducive environment for business to thrive.
The Nigerian legislature strongly believes that having a collaborative working relationship with the Executive Branch of government brings development closer to the people. Since the advent of the new administration, we have worked closely to stabilize the economy and steady the fiscal environment. This, we have indeed demonstrated by the speedy passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Frame Work (MTEF) and recently in the postponement of our recess in order to receive President Muhammadu Buhari to present the 2016 Appropriation Bill. We have also set in motion activities towards reforming our oil and gas industry through legislative initiatives in order to meet international best practices.
Engaging with our people the issues we strongly made here of FOREX – to do business.
This is expected – what IMF can do to bridge the gap.
CBN to advise open – allow Forex
(ii) No devaluation.
(iii) Loans to SMEs – bring interest to CBN
(iv) Technical assistance
(v) Support policies.
The 8th Senate Legislative Agenda is of particular interest in Parliamentary Network initiative which brings together parliamentarians and representatives of private sector as well as civil society organisations to discuss how to improve the environment for doing business in the developing world and how countries can increase their ranking in publications such as “Doing Business Report”.
The purpose of our Legislative Agenda is to enable us focus our lawmaking in areas that will help create jobs, expand our infrastructure base and make our economy work for the benefit and happiness of the majority of our people. Pivotal to the attainment of this overarching objective is the state of the Nigerian business environment. In collaboration with major stakeholders, the 8th Senate is presently signing a memorandum of understanding on “The Enhancing Nigerian Advocacy for Better Business Environment Project”, a National Assembly business and investment roundtable initiative, with developmental organizations.
These roundtables will provide opportunity to the private sector to work closely with the legislature in developing friendly-business environment.
The initiative will commence with a review of institutional, regulatory and legal instruments currently becoming impediments and bottlenecks to doing business in Nigeria.
Your Excellency, Distinguished and Honourable colleagues, in closing, I want you to take away these messages:
Legislature/Executive Collaboration on the Economy:
The National Assembly is committed to working closely with the Executive arm in addressing the challenges facing the Nigerian economy. This is the position on both sides of the aisle;
Diversifying and Modernizing Our Economy:
We will support the Executive with legislation where necessary to give confidence to investors.
Blocking Revenue Leakages:
We are assiduously working towards blocking identified legal loopholes on revenue leakages and expanding our tax base;
Conducive Business Environment:
We are giving priority to legislation aimed at providing a more conducive business environment in general and reducing the cost of doing business in Nigeria; and
Ending Impunity and Reducing Corruption: The National Assembly more than ever before, is working at improving its oversight systems to expose corruption wherever it may be, and providing better legal frameworks to entrench the rule of law and end impunity.
The global economy is currently well interconnected. With our economic weight in our sub-region, a well functioning Nigerian economy provides a strong pillar to its growth. We therefore, implore the international community and financial institutions to partner with us in supporting our economic development aspirations.
On this note, Your Excellency, we welcome you once again to our beautiful city and wish you the Season’s Greetings.
Abubakar Bukola Saraki
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE