FG springs surprise with social security initiative-Businessday

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Coming straight out of the blue, the Federal Government yesterday announced it was in discussions with the Brettonwoods institution,the World Bank, to trash out what it terms “a comprehensive social protection scheme” for the country.

Government said the scheme will kick off next month as part of an extensive social rehabilitation programme across the country.

Social security interventions, analysts told BusinessDay yesterday, are typically anchored on individual citizen welfare and serve as a cushion for the imbalance in income abilities across the population. But it was not clear yesterday, the scope, form and shape of the planned  programme announced by co-ordinating minister and minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Abuja during a briefing with journalists.

If government goes the whole hog to implement this planned intervention, it would have a plethora of countries with centuries and decades of  running social security to choose from in Europe and North America.

For decades, Nigerians of different hues have derided different governments for completely being out of their lives, often asking why Africa’s biggest oil producer does not have  any safety net for its citizens, while they see political and senior government office holders live in opulence from the proceeds of corruption.

The move is  also seen by analysts as an attempt to kick-start the implementation of  President Goodluck Jonathan’s earlier campaign promise which has until now been ignored. It also comes amid wide spread doubt about his people-oriented programmes. Some analysts say it might also be one of those carrots that politicians dangle as elections approach.

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of finance, Okonjo-Iweala who announced this on Monday at the public presentation of 2014 budget said the comprehensive scheme will build on the successes of the various programmes which are being piloted across the country.

The finance minister also informed that the government, in collaboration with the Developmet partners, will introduce a N5 billion intervention Programme for the rehabiltation of the North East.

Making her budget presentation, Okonjo-Iweala said the social safety nets had become necessary, particularly with the increasing inequality and vulnerability in the country.

According to her, the government has piloted a number of social safety net programmes, such as the maternal and child health programmess under the ‘saving one million lives programmes’ routine immunization programmes, conditional cash transfers in eight states and the FCT and various community-driven development programs and will continue.

Speaking further in her presentation, the finance minister also noted that through the intervention Programme for the North East tagged ‘Federal Initiative for the North East (FINE), the government intends to restore hope in that region by rehabilitating local schools and health clinics.

The intervention Programme will  as well provide additional assistance for farmers in the region to help restore their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the development partners, including the World Bank, African Development and some Export Import Banks, among others, have put down resources worth more than $4 billion to strengthen the nation’s power transmission infrastructure, Minsiter of power, Chinedu Nebo has disclosed.

Explaining progress made in the power sector at the budget presentation event, Nebo attributed the current shortage in power supply to several gas pipelines that had been vandalized, causing the governmnet so much in terms of time and monies to fix.

He assured that the government is working very hard to take care of gas pipeline vadalism, and that in a couple of months ahead, the country will witness a huge leap in power supply especially before the end of the year.

He also noted that the government is taking care of the very weak transmission infrastructure and instability in the National grid.

“The government is working very hard and I can assure you that within three weeks, there is going to be substantial improvement in the gas supply, stabilisation of the nation’s power plants so that more power an be generated.

Also speaking at the budget presentation, the Minister of works,  Mike Onolememen said there had been improvement, especially in the Nigeria’s road network with the implementation of the 2013 budget.

He informed the audience that the second Niger bridge and Lagos Ibadan expressway are key projects that will get special attention from allocations in the 2014 budget.

He informed that the Abuja-Lokoja and Benin-Ore express roads will all be completed by April.

Onyinye Nwachukwu

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