The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has publicly condemned subsidies for certain commodities in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and other nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, offering explanations as to why they should be abolished..

Speaking to the media at the just concluded World Bank and IMF Spring meetings in Washington DC, USA, Mr Abebe Selassie, Director, African Department of the IMF, however, indicated that the institution would not interfere with the choices of countries regarding subsidies.He stated:

“The benefits of such subsidies tend to accrue to richer segments of the society, and in a world where we still have elevated levels of poverty and with levels of development challenges, I’m not sure that this is the best use of resources. “But then we leave it up to the governments the choices of whether to sustain those subsidy policies or remove them.

“However, what we asked them to do, and what is important is that the cost of this fuel subsidy is rather than being left as off-balance sheet it should be included in the regular fiscal appropriation process, so that the trade-offs that the government is making is clear and transparent.

“Now, how governments do this, the extent of the fuel subsidies, of course also varies with global international market prices.

“You know that whether to subsidize or not and to what extent, obviously is a very deeply domestic and deeply political issue. If governments want to do that, that’s fine. But we think it’s sub-optimal, as I said, for reasons I explained earlier that the benefits of subsidies tend to accrue to richer households.

“We know, of course, in Nigeria that fuel subsidies have eaten up tremendous, tremendous amount of resources, at the same time that the government doesn’t have resources to address the huge investment needs, from health to education, to infrastructure. But this is a choice for Nigerian government and Nigerian civil societies to make.

“We’ve also heard the discussion that’s going on the debate that’s going on, on whether this is ideal. We try and inform that debate with statistics and with practices elsewhere, but I think that’s our role.

“So, for a country like Nigeria also, you know, the future trajectory of its economy is going to depend on a whole host of variables, or reforms that the government pursues and how effectively it uses the resources and the oil price trajectory”.

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