By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
In a bid to identify and accelerate projects with significant impact on GDP and job creation, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) focus labs .
Speaking during the launch of the focus labs at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari explained that the labs were meant to ensure that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was effectively implemented.
According to him, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was focused on achieving sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth, becoming self-sufficient in basic commodities to curtail our 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 added that 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 and issues.
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.
Pointing out that in the past ten months, his administration has achieved several noteworthy milestones , Buhari observed that economic growth returned in second quarter of 2017 due to a clear follow-through of some of the economic initiatives they set out to implement.
Since then,he said the government has consolidated on the recovery path reaching a Real GDP growth of 1.92% by the fourth quarter of 2017.
He said “We have also restored stability in foreign exchange market and have recorded improvements in our foreign reserves which have grown from 24 billion US dollars in September 2016 to 42 billion US dollars by mid-February 2018 and now 46 billion US dollars. 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.
” We remain committed to working hard to attain our target of moving up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings by 2020.
“We are also investing billions of naira in fixing infrastructures across the country. Significant progress has also been made in the Agricultural sector with the expansion of the Anchor Borrower’s program to more beneficiaries to boost our local production.
” We plan to build upon the success of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to double the 500,000 metric tons of fertilizer delivered to States, agro-dealers and farmers in 2017, by achieving production output of 1 million metric tons 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, added that his administration is not relenting on their efforts until these improvements in economic indices translate to visible improvements in the lives of the citizens.
Our labour force growth rate exceeds our population growth. 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 added.
On his part ,The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma, said “We are targeting to mobilize at least $25 billion or its equivalent in Naira, in private investments and about 240 projects have so far been screened for the labs. Many have asked whether we are not being too ambitious in targeting $25 billion.
“My answer is that we have no choice. We actually need multiplies 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,”he added.