By Taiye Odewale Abuja–
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday sought for the approval of the National Assembly for two external loans worth $5.5 billion to finance the N7.4trillion 2017 Budget.
But the Senate kicked in the belief that the N1.8trillion planned loan could be generated internally by the various revenue generating agencies if well monitored.
Buhari, in his letter of request for the loans, said the fi rst loan of $2.5 is for the fi nancing of the defi cit in the 2017 Budget and capital expenditure projects in the same budget.
Th e second tranche of $3.0 billion is for the refinancing of maturing domestic debt obligations through the issuance of Eurobonds or loan syndication.
Th e president informed the legislators that the terms and conditions of thloans would only be known when they are matured for collection.
“With respect to the Terms and Conditions of the proposed External Borrowings, the Senate may wish to note that being market-based transactions, the terms and conditions of the borrowings can only be determined at the point of issuance of fi nalisation based on prevailing market conditions in the International Capital Market (lCM),” he said.
Th e request generated initial controversy on the floor of the Senate as the lawmakers protested against the earlier impression that the request had been pending before the Senate, and that its delayed approval had caused a major hitch in the implementation of the budget.
Justifying his loan request of $2.5 billion, President Buhari invited the Senate to “note that in order to implement the External Borrowing approved by the National Assembly in the 2017 Appropriation Act, the FGN issued a USD3OO million Diaspora Bond in the International Capital Market (ICM) in June 2017.
“Th e balance of the 2017 External Borrowing, in the sum USD3.2 billion is planned to be partially sourced from issuance in the ICM of USD2.5 billion through Eurobonds or a combination of Eurobonds and Diaspora Bonds, while USD700 million is proposed to be raised from multilateral sources.
” “It should be noted that the intention is to issue the Eurobonds first, with the objective of raising all the funds through Eurobonds, and that Diaspora Bonds will only be issued where the full amount cannot be raised through Eurobonds.
” Explaining the main reason for this segment of the loans, the president said: “Th e Senate may wish to note that the proceeds from the proposed issuance of Eurobonds (and Diaspora Bond) in the lCM would be used to fi nance the deficit in the 2017 Appropriation Act and provide funding for the capital projects in the Budget.
” He listed the projects which include the Mambilla Hydropower Project, construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, counterpart funding for rail projects and the construction of the Bode-Bonny Road, with a bridge across the Opobo Channel.
On the $3 billion for refi nancing of domestic debts, he said: “In addition to the implementation of the external borrowing approved in the 2017 Appropriation Act, in order to reduce debt service levels and lengthen the tenor profi le of the Debt Stock, the FGN seeks to substitute maturing domestic debt with less expensive long term External Debt.
“Th e FGN plans to source USD 3.0 billion through the issuance of Eurobonds in the lCM and/or loan syndication by banks as approved by the Federal Executive Council at its meeting of August 9, 2017.
“It is important to note that the proposed sourcing of billion dollars from external sources to re-fi nance maturing domestic debt will not lead to an increase in the public debt portfolio because the debt already exists, albeit in the form of high interest short term domestic debt.
Rather, the substitution of domestic debt with relatively cheaper and long-term external debt will lead to a signifi cant decrease in Debt Service Cost.