By Bassey Udo
Growth figures are meaningless if they do not translate to good-paying jobs and improved standard of living for the people, President Muhammadu Buhari, has said.
In order to tackle existing problems and at the same time benefit from domestic and global trends, stakeholders both in the public and private sectors must take timely actions and immediate steps for Nigeria to achieve the desired national goals, according to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President stated this in a speech he sent to the opening of the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#27) in Abuja on the theme “Securing our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now”.
The President was represented by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who delivered the address virtually.
Emphasizing the imperative of the theme of the summit, the President described it as compelling considering the current challenges the country was grappling with.
Stresses the importance of taking timely actions to tackle existing problems, the President said immediate steps must be taken to cope with or benefit from domestic and global trends to achieve the desired national goals and objectives.
“The need for urgent action is even more pressing if we take account of the fact that we are now part of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which calls for actions to position the economy to benefit from the opportunity that this regional integration grouping presents, while at the same time protecting our industries and businesses from unfair competition,” he said.
The new medium-term National Development Plan (2021 – 2025) must result in the realization of national objectives, adding that “growth figures are meaningless if they do not translate to good-paying jobs and improved standard of living for the people.”
The President maintained that the question about policies must be answered regarding what they mean for creation of wealth and human capacity development.
He explained that the new plan incorporates aspects of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy articulated as a guide towards achieving the country’s poverty reduction target.
The starting point for the implementation of the Strategy, he said, was the realization that increased employment was an indispensable tool for reducing poverty.
The Federal Government under his leadership, the President said, was responding to the challenges and opportunities of the moment by articulating forward-looking policies and strategies, while implementing a coherent, clear and consistent set of actions to achieve the desired national objectives.
“The broad objectives of the new medium-term National Development Plan Plan are to diversify the economy, invest in critical infrastructure, build human capital and improve governance and security.
“The intention is to achieve broad-based and inclusive gross domestic product (GDP) growth to create 21 million jobs and lift 35 million people out of poverty by 2025.
“This ambitious, but realizable target is consistent with government’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in a decade,” he said.
On the rationale for government’s policy direction, the President said, “the shock caused by the pandemic was at a time Nigeria as a developing economy was striving to become a digital economy, capable of leapfroging into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
As if the pandemic was not a challenge enough, he said the country was also required, as a good member of the international community, to take steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
This, he said, was not a simple matter, bearing in mind that the country was reliant on oil and gas for revenues and export earnings, while reducing the use of fossil fuels as a strategy for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
He listed some of the interventions by the government whose results are beginning to show, although much more work was expected to be done, especially in the context of the urgent national priorities to reduce poverty and unemployment.
“The Economic Sustainability Plan adopted in response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic was centered on tackling and reducing the COVID-19 caseload, restoring growth, protecting and creating jobs, rescuing businesses, and reducing social vulnerabilities.
“These were in addition to the priority actions already taken in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to invest in social and human capital, build power, road and rail infrastructure and improve the business environment.”
In the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) space, the President said his administration was able to support up to 1.1million establishments and individuals through the MSME Survival Fund.
In this regard, he said the payroll support scheme allowed the government to pay salaries to nearly 500,000 employees of MSMEs over a three-month period so that they could remain at work.”
Given the critical foreign exchange needs of the economy, he said the country was also providing support to exporters through the Export Expansion Facility Programme, with disbursement ongoing to beneficiaries of the scheme.”
He said the on-going labour intensive interventions in agriculture, housing and solar power installations would also boost domestic demand, especially for local products”, as some of the interventions expected to create employment.
On the Solar Power Naija Project, the President said it was another project of the Economic Sustainability Plan that would lead to the creation of over 250,000 jobs to connect up to 5 million households to solar power.
He called for more public-private partnerships in the transport sector, adding that the efforts of the government were evident and yielding results.
He cited examples of infrastructure being developed across the country in the areas of rail services from Abuja to Kaduna; Warri to Itakpe; and Lagos to Ibadan.
Similar investments, he said, were ongoing in major roads and bridges, like the Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kano, Second Niger Bridge, and East-West Road amongst others.
The Road Infrastructure Tax Credit scheme, he said, holds great potential as the work done on the Apapa-Oworonshoki Road has demonstrated.
The President also identified digital economy “as another area with great potential and we are working on several initiatives to boost Business Process Outsourcing to
generate jobs, while also contributing to substantial export earnings.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, commended the partnership with the private sector through the Nigerian Economic Summit Group over the years, noting the group’s contributions to the development of government’s policies that have positively impacting the economy.
The Minister said the theme of the NES#27 Summit was consciously chosen to reflect the need for urgent and targeted action to address the current national challenges in the country.
She said the theme also builds on last year’s Summit, which emphasised the importance of harnessing critical and strategic partnerships towards economic recovery and resilience.
The Nigeria of her dream, she said, was one with a majority of the citizens lifted out of poverty and given access to fundamental services, such as education, healthcare, water supply and sanitation, in line with the policy direction of the present administration.
To realize the future, the Minister said a paradigm shift was incontrovertible, adding that this would entail comprehensive and targeted reforms, a reorientation of national values, and a radical shift in the people’s attitudes to taxation and public financial management.
“I envision a future with economic growth led by a thriving and innovative private sector resulting in a diversified economy with non-oil taxes as the major source of government revenue and the non-oil economy driving export expansion and accretion to our foreign reserves.
“I see a future where our young and vibrant population is driving growth in high value-added services in the digital economy and professional, scientific and technical services.
“I envision a globally competitive Nigeria at the forefront of advances in medium and high-tech manufacturing, characterised by increased product complexity and leveraging on our natural endowments.
“Lastly, I envision a future that is safe and secure, in which Nigerian citizens and foreign investors can trade and conduct business transactions with ease,” she said.
She said this of our dreams would be achieved by the dedication and hard work of all stakeholders, with leadership at the Federal, State and Local Government levels and in collaboration with the corporate sector.
The Chairman of the NESG, Asue Ighodalo in his opening remarks called on all stakeholders to support the Buhari administration to secure the future of the country .
He said although the challenges confronting the country were many, we should not despair, adding that Nigerians must get to work urgently, to get the country working again.
A former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe commended the leadership provided by Nigeria in improving the lives of the people through effective policy implementation and inclusive governance.
The efforts made by the Nigerian government in securing the lives of the people and improving the economy, he said, would go a long way in securing the future of Africa.
He called on the governments across the continent to put the people at the centre of policy choices and implementation rl drive development.
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