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UPDATE 1-Nigerian economy projected to have shrunk 1.54 pct in 2016 - ministry
February 11, 2017 / 5:00 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Nigerian economy projected to have shrunk 1.54 pct in 2016 - ministry

* Nigeria mired in recession after oil price slump

* To increase oil production to 2.5 mln bpd - document

* Aims to cut petroleum product imports by 60 pct - document (Adds context)

By Paul Carsten

ABUJA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s economy is projected to have contracted 1.54 percent in 2016, according to a budget ministry document, with Africa’s most populous country mired in its first recession in a quarter of a century.

Nigeria is heavily dependent on crude oil exports to fuel its economy, but low global prices and militant attacks on the southeastern Delta oil hub have hammered those exports and slashed government revenues.

“The Nigerian economy, in response to both external and internal economic pressures, inevitably contracted and is currently in recession with a projected growth of -1.54 percent for 2016,” the document released to Reuters by the ministry on Saturday said.

The budget ministry draft, called “Key issues in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan”, said the recession was also caused by growth dependent on consumption rather than investment and “huge leaks in government resources through corruption and inefficient spending”.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that Nigeria’s economy would shrink 1.8 percent in 2016. Final official figures are due to be released by Nigeria on Feb. 28.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government came to power on a pledge to diversify the economy, fight corruption and tackle the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.

But Buhari’s critics say the administration has made little headway, with the economy in recession, corruption still endemic and Boko Haram continuing to carry out attacks.

Nigeria’s central bank, backed by Buhari, has also kept the naira rate to the dollar at 40 percent above the unofficial - or parallel - market rate, which has dried up dollar supplies on official channels.

The government is now formulating an “Economic Recovery and Growth Plan” for 2017 to 2020.

“First-class infrastructure and an economic environment that supports the private sector and enables it to expand, take risk and employ people are essential to achieve Nigeria’s aspirations for a dynamic, competitive economy,” the budget ministry’s document on the plan said.

Nigeria also plans to increase oil production to 2.5 million barrels per day by 2020, the document said. In January the vice president said production was 1.7-1.8 million barrels per day.

The government also wants to improve domestic refineries so that petroleum product imports can be cut by 60 percent by 2018, said the document.

To lift growth, the plan will focus on building up Nigeria’s agriculture, energy and small and medium-sized businesses, the document said, adding that the country aims to have 10 gigawatts of power capacity by 2020.

Of particular concern is job creation, said the document, as unemployment steadily rises. The unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2016, the latest for which there is publicly available data, was 13.9 percent. At the end of 2015, the rate was 6.4 percent.

Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Alison Williams

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