The Federal Government is expanding the scope of its direct cash transfer scheme which it plans to restart any moment from now, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun, hinted yesterday.

Nigerian Naira

He said that 12 million more households would benefit from the direct payments of cash to further cushion the effects of the rising cost of living.

Three million households benefit from the scheme presently.

Edun, who dropped the hint in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, said: “The presidential panel on the social investment programmes, have prepared to go to Mr. President with an internal recommendation to restart the direct payments to the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable. Everything is being done to ease the pain.

“We know that there has been about three million beneficiaries now, but given the way the rates have gone, there are probably another 12 million people, households that can benefit from that payment.”

According to the minister, “the expansion of the direct cash transfer aims to reach a wider population struggling with the economic situation and to put more money directly in the hands of those who need it most, allowing them to prioritise their needs and alleviate poverty.

“The decision to inform the President of the Panel’s decision before the final report is completed is to keep the President abreast of developments”.

Edun said that technology would be deployed to ensure smooth and transparent payments and also eliminate delays associated with manual processes.

He said: “The only thing delaying that is not waiting for the end of the report. It is something that the intervention is meant to happen immediately.

“We have experts in technology; the commitment was to make sure that we use technology to ensure that we have a seamless payment, a seamless movement between the registered and the direct beneficiaries, without any manual processes in between. So, it’s taking time to automate that process, immediately after that, direct payment will resume”.

Recognising the significant impact of food prices on household budgets, the government introduced measures to boost food availability and drive down costs.

The minister reiterated that President Bola Tinubu’s intervention to release 60,000 metric tonnes of food grains.

He said: “The goal is to put food, to put feed into the mill, into the market, in an attempt to drive down the cost of food and make food available. Right now, that is the key priority in terms of the fiscal side, in terms of the government side”.

Defending the planned restart of the direct cash transfer scheme, Edun argued: “History has shown, evidence has shown that when you pay someone directly, you put money in their hand. It reduces poverty because they decide where the shoe is pinching most.

“So, it is a direct benefit, and it has direct effect on poverty. It alleviates, and there’s a commitment to immediately start that process. That is, as far as these interventions are concerned and the landscape which we as a team are facing, we have a commitment to help to bring down inflation.

“Growing the economy, creating jobs and lifting millions and millions of Nigerians out of poverty, that’s the ultimate goal of President Bola Tinubu and his economic policies.”

The minister acknowledged that the historical reliance on “Ways and Means” financing was a source of inflation. The government, he said, is committed to reducing this debt burden through various financial and revenue-generating initiatives.

He said: “On the monetary side, Ways and Means have been identified, and we too agree that the historical legacy of Ways and Means that was inherited has to be dealt with, has to be paid out one way or the other.”

“And those are the financial engineering, those are the revenue initiatives that we are focused on to remove that burden, that inflationary burden on the economy.”

On close collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria, Edun described the synergy as crucial in tackling inflation and stabilising the Naira.

He said: “To this end, the Central Bank is using various tools to achieve these goals, including stabilising interest rates and managing foreign exchange rates.

“It is a battle, and the tactics change because there is a loss or a need to restore the value of the naira, a need to restore the confidence in holding the naira as a store of value.

“All the arsenal… all the instruments available are being brought to the fore and used. Surely, it is a battle the central bank will win. It is a battle the government will win. That is not a doubt.”

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