States, FCT to Access World Bank’s $750m Facility

Zainab Ahmed

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are to access a $750 million World Bank facility in form of concessionary loan and grant, the federal government disclosed, Friday.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, made the disclosure at the 7th Community of Practice (CoP) meeting in Abuja.
COP is a forum of state commissioners for planning and budgeting.

Speaking at the meeting, with the theme, ‘Achieving Realism in State and Federal Budgets for Effective Service Delivery’, the minister expressed optimism that states would continue with their fiscal responsibility, which will serve as a platform to access the World Bank facility.

Ahmed, according to a statement issued by her Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Paul Ella Abechi, was the founder of CoP in September 2016, when she was the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, and was invited to the meeting to speak on issues concerning the CoP.

CoP meetings enhance the States Commissioners for Planning and Budget capabilities in performing their functions, and serve as platforms for facilitating peer learning and information exchange, strengthening coordination, collaboration and networking.

Issues being discussed at the 7th CoP meeting include expanding the forum beyond the current membership to include the minister of finance and states commissioners for finance, for better coordination of planning, budget and public finances.

The finance minister said: “During the course of these meetings, we had the benefit of hosting the World Bank and several other opportunities including the Governors’ Forum.

“During the course of this exercise, the Ministry of Finance had to, on instruction from the President provide bailouts to the state because at one point states were not able to pay salaries.

“Part of the conditions that was given for those bailouts is a fiscal responsibility plan which needed to be implemented for the states to continue to be qualified to access the funds that the federal government was giving.

“This FSP was quite successful because as a result of that we saw improvements in the public financial management in a lot of states, some of which is evident in the increase in the IGR (Internally Generated Revenue) and also the increase in the frequency of the preparation of financial statements in the availability of budget that was not used to be found anywhere.

“This year, it was so good that the World Bank said this group has done well and therefore we are going to give $750 million in the form of concessionary loans and grant which will be available soon for the states to access.

“We are in the process of going to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to get the approval; the World Bank on its own has already approved this and others. So, we hope that you will continue to implement your fiscal responsibility so that you will qualify for this facility as well as the grant.

“And those principles agreed by the NEC (National Economic Council) are still as relevant today as they were in 2016. So I want to urge the CoP to ensure that the monitoring aspect of this is still continuing in one way or the other,” she said The minister also charged the CoP to make monitoring of the process of implementation of budget cardinal, adding that it would benefit and enhance what they are doing to improve the standard of living of the people in their states.

“Let me add that the need for monitoring is beneficial because it will enhance process improvement. It will also help us to refocus ourselves as well as our principles to stay on those commitments that are made, but most importantly, it will enhance public service delivery to the citizens,” Ahmed stated.