ABUJA (Reuters) – The head of the International Monetary Fund endorsed on Tuesday Nigeria’s efforts to tackle corruption, while saying the country needed to reduce its reliance on oil, sharp falls in the price of which have crippled its economy.
[For more read: IMF head, Lagarde to meet Nigeria’s president]
Speaking after talks with President Muhammadu Buhari, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde also said she was not in Nigeria to negotiate a loan.
She backed what she called Buhari’s “very important” fight against corruption and said the president’s reform push could have a positive impact across West Africa.
“His determination to bring about transparency and accountability at all levels of the economy were very important agenda items and very ambitious goals that need to be delivered upon,” Lagarde told reporters at the presidential villa in the capital Abuja.
Buhari was elected in March after a campaign in which he promised to clamp down on the endemic corruption that has left many in Africa’s biggest economy mired in poverty despite its enormous energy wealth.
He then announced a record budget for 2016, forecasting a doubling of the deficit to 2.2 trillion naira ($11 billion) and a tripling of capital expenditure intended to help the country adjust to the downturn in oil, which has lost around two-thirds of its value since mid-2014.
Lagarde said she and Buhari discussed the challenges posed by the falling oil price and the need for fiscal discipline.
“The short term fiscal situation… requires that revenue sources be identified in order to compensate the shortfall resulting from the oil price decline,” the IMF head added.
(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Writing by James Macharia; editing by John Stonestreet)