…….FG’s ERGP Not Reflecting Nigerians’ Needs – Bill Gates
President Dangote Group of companies, Aliko Dangote has suggested that private companies should donate one percent of their profits to fund the health sector in Nigeria.
He made the suggestion on Thursday at the expended National Economic Council (NEC) on Investment in Human Capital, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, this would help in raising money to fund the health sector stressing the need to invest in the health and well-being being of Nigerians.
He said for Nigeria to truly compete globally, it must prioritize investments in the health, education and opportunity for the people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure.
He said “We have had a very good meeting and one of the things that we are also suggesting that will ensure we fund our health sector very well, is for private sector to give one percent of their annual profit.
“That will actually help in raising quite a lot of money because since the rebasing of the economy, we are going to get out of most of these donations we are getting from Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAV), World Bank and the rest of the donor, putting Nigeria as a rich country and not a poor country anymore.
“I think we have to also to our own bit to ensure that we have a very vibrant population, Nigeria will be almost number three by 2050 in the World’s population. So we have to make sure that we have a very healthy society.
On his part, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, observed that the Economic and Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the present administration does not reflect the needs of Nigerians people.
He also announced that his foundation, has committed the sum of $1.6billion in Nigeria with a plan to increase the amount.
He commented “The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies ‘investing in our people’ as one of three ‘strategic objectives.’
“But the ‘execution priorities’ don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.
“To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people.
“People without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
Gates further observed that if the present trend continues, the country cannot keep up with its population growth.
He added: “If current education and health trends continue-if you spend the same amount in these areas and get the same results-per capita GDP flatlines, with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth.
“If things get worse, it will decline. Unfortunately, this scenario is a very real possibility unless you intervene at both the federal and state levels. Because even in the worst-case scenario, your national income level is about to make you ineligible for certain kinds of development assistance and loans that you’ve been relying on to fund your health system and other priorities.
“Without more and better spent domestic money, investment in your people will decline by default as donor money shrinks-a lose-lose scenario for everyone.
“However, if you commit to getting better results in health and education-if you spend more and more effectively-per capita GDP will stay on its remarkable pre-recession trajectory.”
Gates advised political leaders to maximize the country’s resources which are its people as a way to help the country to thrive.
He stated that Nigeria remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth while one of three Nigeria children is chronically malnourished.
He further said: “The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian, people.
“Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities- the “human capital” we are talking about today- then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity.
“If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
“You see this risk in the data. From the point of view of the quality of life much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country.
“Let me give a few examples. In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68. In low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone Central African Republic, and Chad.
“One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished. I do not enjoy speaking to you this bluntly when you have been gracious enough to invite me here. But I am applying an important lesson I earned from Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
“Recently, Aliko and I were having a conversation with several governors about their states’ official immunization rates. Aliko’s way of stressing the importance of accurate data was to tell us, ‘I didn’t get successful by pretending to sell bags of cement I didn’t have.’ I took from that that while it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress.
“On immunization, you are already living that lesson: last year Nigeria revised its immunization coverage numbers downward to reflect more accurate sources, and I applaud you for those lower numbers.
“They may look worse, but they are more real, which is the first step toward saving and improving more lives.”
On his part, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi said the theme is about how to secure the future of the country knowing that by 2050, Nigeria will be the third largest in the world.
He stated “So the issue of quality education, healthcare delivery were x-rayed and discussed extensively. The discussion was also on primary healthcare and how to make them more effective.
The issue of polio eradication was also discussed and we thanked Bill Gates and Dangote Foundations for their massive investment in this direction and other areas.
While appealing to the National Assembly to amend their laws so that Nigerians can access the health funds of about 50-50 contributions that is required by states to access the funds, Umahi noted that It’s quite challenging because of other contending issues like security, empowerment of women and youth, infrastructure decay and other developmental strands of the various governance of the state.
Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai said “I think this meeting is the most important we have held since we came into the office, because in our meetings we tend to focus on the hard economic issues of building infrastructure and transportation networks, electricity etc.
The truth is most Nigerians think that the dividend of democracy amounts to see a road pass by your house, water or electricity. Dangote and Gates reminded all of us today, is that there is something far more Important, than physical infrastructure – roads, electricity, water and that is our investing in the people.
Nigeria is going to be 411 million people by 2050. Today, more than half of our population is very young and unless we try to educate them and by ensuring that they are healthy, we will face a demographic disaster.
India and China have shown that a large population is not a problem, the problem is getting that large population to be productive by getting them sound education and good healthcare.
Unfortunately this country has been consistently under-investing in healthcare, our investments in education is are below average even in Africa, our tax revenue in terms of GDP is the lowest in the world.
“We are moving towards certain disaster unless we recalibrate, focus as government leaders in collaboration with the private sectors and donors, to put our money into the future of our people. And the way to do so is to invest in education. This was the greatest lesson for us today.
On the proposed one percent tax by Dangote ,he said ” Dangote has proposed a noble idea if I may say so, of introducing something similar to a company education tax, as you know companies pay a fraction of their profits to as education tax fund, which is what we use largely to fund tertiary institutions.
“He has proposed a similar health fund in which companies will pledge to pay a percentage of their profit that can go into a national health fund, that can be managed jointly with private sector participation to ensure that primary healthcare receives appropriate funding for commodities, equipment and Human Resources.
We have several primary healthcare centers across the country but they are just buildings without drugs, nurses and doctors and equipment. But with this proposal we hope to move forward, I think we have robust funding because it will be money that will be well spent.
On the review of ERGP as suggested by Gates, El- Rufai disagreed with the Microsoft boss saying it is not correct to say that the economic recovery and growth plan does not give primacy to human capital.
He said the economic recovery and growth plan has enough provision for human capital, even as he pointed out that it is a federal government plan, what is needed is for states to have similar plans as well as adequate provisions for healthcare and education.
He explained “Because the bulk of the burden for healthcare and education really rests on states governments. The disease burden of the country is largely at the primary healthcare level and this primary healthcare system is broken completely, we need to rebuild it.
“It is the responsibility of the states rather than the federal government. The federal government incentifies with funding, grants and aids. But essentially, routine immunization, primary healthcare, is the responsibility of the states.
“So it is not gaps in the ERGP that we are looking at, it is appealing to states governments to provide more money in basic education, primary healthcare.
“The United Nations recommends that we should budget at least 26 percent of our total budget on education, many state governments are doing that or near that. Kaduna state has done averagely 35 percent in the last two years.
The world health organization recommends that we budget at least 16 percent of total budget on healthcare, some of our states are doing 12 and 16 percent and so on. Kaduna is doing 16.1 percent we moved three percent in 2016 to 16 percent today. So the states government are scaling up their investments in healthcare but we need to do more.
This is the message of Gates and Dangote, we need to do much more at the sub-national level. Is not the ERGP that needs adjustments, it is the budgeting that needs to be ramped up in these two key areas because these are where the problems are.
If a child losses equality education, he is done for life. If a child doesn’t get quality healthcare in the first two years, he is destroyed for life. This is message that will invest more at the lower level, so that we prevent this disaster from happening,” he added.