…Targets 15m jobs
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has assured that the Federal Government would give priority attention to the Nigerian private sector in an effort to achieve the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Osinbajo who reaffirmed government’s commitment to partner and work with the private sector to achieve the economic objectives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, gave the assurance at the inauguration of the Core Working Teams for ERGP Focus Labs at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The four teams comprised 20 persons per lab and 80 participants in all.
According to the Vice President, “our administration fully recognises that the private sector ought to be the driver of the economy, mobilising and deploying the bulk of capital required to deliver growth and prosperity; and the role of government should essentially be to create the environment for the private sector to thrive.”
He noted that the principle on which the ERGP focus labs were designed was one that creates enabling environment for the private sector, adding that government was committed to the principle.
He said: “I want all of us who will be participating in these labs to see this as central. We want to listen to what investors are saying; we want to listen to what the private sector is saying; I want to see in what ways we can bend over backwards to accommodate what they are saying so that we can achieve our objectives.”
Osinbajo further explained that the ERGP Focus Labs were meant to bring together private sector and public sector participants as well as potential investors to think through the implementation of the specific areas of focus for the labs, including agriculture and transportation; manufacturing and processing; and power and gas.
He said the labs, which would be launched in March, were targeted at achieving the ERGP’s goals of achieving 7 per cent growth by 2020 and of creating jobs.
Presenting the focus labs, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, recalled that the Buhari administration inherited a challenged economy but through deliberate policies was able to arrest the slide and put the economy back on the path of growth.
Udoma said the sector-specific focus labs were being rolled out to provide the private sector the needed leverage to drive the economy to enable it attain the targeted 7 per cent growth.
He added that the focus labs would be kick-started with three selected areas, “reflecting our priorities of the ERGP. We are starting in agriculture and transportation, manufacturing and processing, power and gas supply,” he stated, adding that the pre-lab phase started on January 15 and would run till March 4. He explained that the main labs would run from March 5 till April 15 after which there would be post-lab.
Udoma said the main objective of the labs was to get new investments for critical projects to create jobs. “We have a target of 15 million jobs and we must achieve it and would be used to resolve complex inter-agency problems that inhibit private sector investment.”
He said government would retain the Malaysian firm, Pemanda Associates, which ran similar labs in Malaysia to support the implementation of the focus labs.
“They are supporting us; they are not running it for us,” he said, pointing out that the labs would be run by an implementation unit in the Ministry of Budget and Planning.
Udoma said the president would be at the head of the structure and would be reported to while the Central Steering Committee would be chaired by the Minister of Budget and Planning.
The Ministers of Agriculture, Transportation, Industry, Trade and Investment, Mines and Steel Development, Finance, Power, Works and Housing, Justice, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, representatives of the president and that of the vice president and the coordinator of the labs would be members of the Central Steering Committee.
Others who spoke at the event were the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Budget and Planning, Samson Adewale.