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600 Govt-owned Firms Spend N1trn Yearly Without Returns – BPE

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The 600 government-owned companies in the country have been squandering a whopping N1trillion ($3billion) annually without commensurate returns to the federation account.

Director-general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Alex Okoh, who disclosed this yesterday observed that the N2.28trillion deficit in the 2020 budget of N10.33trillion could as well be funded by proceeds from privatisation of moribund national assets rather than obtaining foreign and local loans.

The BPE boss made the revelation during an interactive session between his agency and the Senate committee on Privatisation.

According to him, there is no reason whatsoever for the country to be financing budget deficit on yearly basis with borrowings from foreign and local loans when there are national assets that could be converted into liquid for that purpose.

Okoh said, “It is not good to keep borrowing on yearly basis to finance deficit budget when a lot of very valuable national assets are lying fallow and moribund.

“Proceeds from outright privatisation or concession of the moribund assets should serve as the best alternative in funding yearly budget deficits since the assets are, more or less, becoming national liabilities”.

He specifically mentioned the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, and the National Stadium in Surulere as some of the national assets that should have been concessioned for that purpose, even as he explained that privatisation/liberalisation has done the Nigeria economy and her people more good than bad.

He stated that in the telecommunication sector alone, while Nigeria had 500,000 land lines and telephone subscribers in pre – year 2000, the subscribers’ base as at 2019 had grown to 150million.

“First Bank today is not the same it was while under government’s control. While not one single unprivatised state-owned enterprise is performing, many of the privatised ones are performing by providing the required liquidity in the Nation’s economy”, he said .

He however admitted that the country is still facing huge problems getting the privatised power sector to function very well.

“We have huge problems concerning the privatisation of the power sector as a result of policy misalignment in the sector. Analogically, the problem with the sector is like after surgery mismanagement which is however being critically addressed. As at today, installed capacity for power generation is 13, 500 megawatts from 2,600 megawatts it was in 2013 before the sector was privatised “.

Okoh assured the committee members that the N320billion expected as revenue from the agency to fund the 2020 budget will be realised by the second quarter of next year from proceeds to be made from some national assets slated for privatisation.

Responding, chairman of the committee, Senator Theodore Orji (PDP Abia central) directed the BPE DG to furnish the committee with records of the agency’ s 2019 budget performance ahead of consideration of the 2020 budgetary estimates for the agency by the committee on Monday.

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