The federal government has announced plans to mobilise a whopping $25 billion (or N7.6 trillion) to build 240 projects across the country under its three-year Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
This was revealed in Abuja yesterday when President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan focus labs, which are aimed at identifying and accelerating high-impact projects with significant impact on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and job creation,
Speaking during the launch of the focus labs at the presidential villa, President Buhari explained that the labs are meant to ensure that the ERGP was effectively implemented.
According to him, the ERGP was focused on achieving sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth, enabling the county to become self-sufficient in basic commodities to curtail food imports.
He listed other key goals to include diversifying the country’s economic base from crude oil dependence, empowering local businesses to create thousands of jobs and improving the general wellbeing of the people.
He said, “Focus labs have been successfully used in other countries. The Labs in Nigeria are designed as closed-door investment platforms to identify and accelerate high-impact projects with significant impact on GDP and job creation.
“The labs will also enable pre-screened private sector investors to have access to senior government officials, regulators, and cabinet ministers.The goal is to efficiently and effectively resolve the most pressing bottlenecks delaying their proposed investments.
Accordingly, President Buhari said he had directed the relevant ministers and heads of government agencies to be available to the participants at the labs to respond to their inquiries.
Buhari commended the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and other relevant agencies for piloting this process, which is being used for the first time in Nigeria.
He expressed confidence that the labs would open up new investments to complement the government’s existing efforts in agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructural development across the country.
The president further credited his administration with several noteworthy milestones in the past ten months.
According to him, economic growth returned to the country in the second quarter of 2017 due to some of the economic initiatives implemented by the administration, reaching a GDP growth of 1.92% by the fourth quarter of 2017.
“We have also restored stability in foreign exchange market and have recorded improvements in our foreign reserves which have grown from $24 billion in September 2016 to $42 billion by mid-February 2018 and now $46 billion. This has been achieved partially because of the recovery of oil prices on the international market.
“We have made remarkable strides in creating a conducive business environment for investors, earning the World Bank’s ranking as one of the Top 10 most improved economies in 2017. This has encouraged both local and foreign investments in the last few months,” he said, adding that the administration was working hard to move up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings by 2020.
Buhari further remarked that his administration was spending hugely on infrastructure to accelerate physical development across the country.
On agriculture, he noted that considerable progress had been made with the expansion of the Anchor Borrower’s programme to more beneficiaries in order to boost our local production.
He added: “We plan to build upon the success of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to double the 500,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer delivered to states, agro-dealers and farmers in 2017 by achieving production output of one million metric tonnes in 2018.
“Today, our local food production, particularly rice, has witnessed a remarkable growth and has saved the nation millions of dollars of foreign exchange.
Buhari, however, asserted that his administration was not relenting on its efforts until these improvements in economic indices translate to visible improvements in the lives of the citizens.
“We must therefore continue working to attract both local and foreign investments to ensure we continue expanding economic activities, thereby creating additional jobs for our people,” he said.
On his part, the minister of budget and national planning, Udoma Udoma, disclosed that the government planned to raise $25 billion for investment in projects that would galvanise the country’s economy and provide jobs for the country’s teeming youth.
Udoma said: “We are targeting to mobilise at least $25 billion, or its equivalent in Naira, in private investments and about 240 projects have so far been screened for the labs.”
Responding to insinuation that the federal government is too ambitious with the $25 billion target, Senator Udoma said, “My answer is that we have no choice. We actually need multiples of $25 billion, or its equivalent in Naira, of new investments to create enough jobs to address the high unemployment rate in the country.
“So, we will not stop after the first set of labs; we will hold more labs and we shall keep on addressing all constraints to investments until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.
“Our aimed is simply put: to raise the level of productivity in Nigeria; we want more things to be processed in Nigeria; we want more jobs to be created in Nigeria.”
LEADERSHIP learnt that the national labs would be conducted in agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and processing and power and gas in a process that would span 17 weeks.
Many have described the targets as overambitious, but the minister of budget and national planning said, “We have no option than attain the targets.We have to achieve a growth rate of at least 4-5 per cent for Nigerians to really feel the difference.”
Nigeria’s nonoil sector grew by 1.45 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, according to official statistics. That is the highest growth recorded by the current administration since it took over government in 2015.
LEADERSHIP reports that the ERGP was launched in April last year while the focus labs launched yesterday by President Buhari in a ceremony attended by top government officials are implementation initiatives of the ERGP designed to ensure a faster implementation of the plan.
Udoma noted that Nigeria was now better place than 2015 when the All Progressives Congress-led administration came in power, but admitted that there is a lot of work ahead.
“We have much more work to do to get to where we want to be,” Udoma acknowledged. As we continue to roll out more initiatives through the ERGP, we will be able to accelerate our rate of growth”, he stated.
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