Oil slump: FG pledges to protect the economy

The Federal Government yesterday vowed to protect the economy from any external shock that might arise from the global drop in oil prices.

It warned that while that is being done, it would not allow “merchants of fear” to distort facts about the economy in order to sow seed of hopelessness.

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated these while speaking at the National Insurance Summit which was held in Abuja.

The summit, organized by the National Insurance Commission had the theme, “Transforming the Nigerian Insurance Sector-A three year agenda.”

The minister who delivered the keynote address at the event admitted that while the economy was currently experiencing challenges, a lot of monetary and fiscal measures have been put in place to put it back on track.

She said, “Unleashing the latent energies of the insurance industry to create more jobs and boost economic development is one of our strategic responses to close the gap created by the economic challenges we are confronting at the moment.

“Given the great progress which the banking and pension sectors have made in the last decade, insurance can do as well or even better

“Many of us, private companies and households are concerned about how the current economic challenges will affect them.

“That is natural and legitimate. But we should avoid the kind of fear that will paralyse us or make us do the wrong things out of fear and alarm.

“Government is open to constructive criticism and ideas because we need to work together as a country to tackle these present challenges.

“But we should not let the merchants of fear; those who want to politicise and make political capital by distorting facts about the economy in order to sow hopelessness and fear succeed.”

Okonjo-Iweala said these challenges have provided the country with an opportunity to unleash the potentials of other sectors of the economy.

“We have challenges but we also have strengths – a diversifying economy, increasing non-oil revenues from tax, a growing private sector and a mix of the right policies to help the economy grow sustainably.

“We also have a growing number of goods and products produced in this country so we are not 100 per cent import dependent. These are strengths that we can fall back on to help us in this challenging times,” she added.

As part of measures to tap the potentials of the insurance industry, the minister announced key policy direction for the sector.

For instance, she said the federal government’s first vision to grow the insurance industry is to increase the sector’s Gross Written Premiums from the current N300 billion to N1 trillion in the next three years and to N5 trillion within the next ten years.

The second part of this vision, she added, would be to deliver more jobs in the industry from the current 30,000 people to 100,000 people in the next three years and to 300,000 people within the next decade.

For the third part of the government’s vision, this, she added, would be to widen access by growing the number of insurance policy holders in the country from the current three million policy holders to 10 million policy holders in the next three years, and 30 million policy holders in the next decade.

If the country is to harness the potential of the insurance industry, the minister said there is need to collectively address several challenges facing the sector.

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