Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC
The Federal Government has said that in the next two weeks it would carry out an open day on the Focus Labs for Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, in order to showcase the success of the program to Nigerians.
Nigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, made the disclosure at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC.
Speaking with journalists after a meeting on Attracting Foreign Direct Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa, Udoma gave an update on the progress of ERGP, saying that, “At the moment, the Focus Labs are being conducted in agriculture, transportation, power and gas, manufacturing and processing. The response has been very good. We are looking forward to organizing an open day in which we will share the results with the Nigerian public; that should be in the next one or two weeks. So that is going well and I am very encouraged by it.”
On Nigeria’s debt issue as highlighted at the Spring Meetings, the budget minister said:
“I am very encouraged by the fact that positive developments in Nigeria are being recognized. The positive developments about economic recovery and growth plan, the things that we are doing to encourage investment, make Nigeria more investment-friendly, I’m happy that all those are being recognized. And the fact that the economy is out of recession and is growing again is also being recognized; and the fact that growth is not dependent solely on oil. That there is growth in agriculture and other areas – so it has been a positive meeting for me.”
On if there are new steps to ensure that there is more revenue to fund the budget, Udoma said:
“As you know, the focus of the ERGP is to generate more revenue. As you are aware, we have the tax amnesty to try and increase the tax revenues being generated; we are looking at some of our excise duties and so the focus is to generate more revenues. Our problem is not a debt problem, our problem is a revenue problem and so we are focused on generating much more revenues.”
On takeaways from the Meetings that will be beneficial for the country, the minister said:
“What I am taking away is that one, there is a lot of interest in Nigeria; two, there is a lot of support for Nigeria; three, they acknowledged the positive developments that are going on and they acknowledged that we are on the right track. We just need to accelerate a bit on some of our measures. We have a lot of measures in the ERGP and we need to accelerate on them. They are happy about our foreign exchange reserves which are growing, about the market system that we are using for foreign exchange management. So there is a lot of positive signals coming out of here for us to take away and we are encouraged.”
Asked to mention the the specifics that have attracted interests and support, Udoma said:
“Well, even whilst I was here, a lot of companies met with me interested in investing in Nigeria – in agriculture and transportation. So there is a lot of interests in investing in Nigeria. You know I am also coming from London where I was with Mr. President and there was an investment summit on Nigeria and there was a lot of interest. So this is the positive signals we are getting.”
On the delay in the passage of budget as the emphasis is on using infrastructure development to drive the economy, and the impact to get the job done, he said:
“Well, the signals that we are getting from the National Assembly is that they are now working hard to get this budget out in the next few weeks. That are very positive signals and we are encouraged by it.”
Asked about what rate he thinks the country should grow before he would be comfortable, Udoma said:
“Our target in 2020 is 7% – that will make me comfortable; above 7% will make me even much more comfortable. And that is why we are working so hard. Even though we are working so hard, the rate of growth is still too slow. So we will like it to pick up and that is why there is a need to work hard. They say the result for good result is more hard work, and so we are poised to continue to focus on the various measures on the ERGP. We believe that we are already seeing some positive results and we believe that we will get it.”
On efforts to ensure the nation absorbs the shock when the economy grows, Udoma said:
“I think the key is revenues. We just have to make sure that we have a broad-based growth, that we are growing in agriculture and other areas within our control, I think that is what we are trying to do, that is the best measures we can take.
“In terms of inclusiveness of growth, as you know, this is a government that is committed to making sure that we carry everybody along. And that is why we have the social investment programme in which we have committed N500 billion every year in the budget to the school feeding programme, the GEEP programme. So we have a number of programmes to make sure nobody is left behind.”