The Ministry of Budget and National Planning today (Tuesday) held an Open Day to mark the end of the first phase of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Labs. It was an opportunity to present the outcomes of the labs which took place over a six week period in Abuja (from March 12 to April 20) and focused on six core sectors:
– Agriculture and transportation,
– Power and gas,
– Manufacturing and processing (including solid minerals).
The labs were designed as a forum for detailed discussion between the private sector and the government to agree on projects that offer the most catalytic impact on investment and job creation and develop plans to implement them; as well as resolve some of the most problematic bottlenecks and inhibitors of additional business investments in the economy.
Specifically, the scope of the labs across three work-streams were:
· Agriculture and Transport: to increase private sector investments in selected crops and products (agro-business) and provide necessary transportation infrastructure that would enable transportation of agricultural products, so as to provide a major boost to the agricultural sector
· Manufacturing and Processing: to increase private sector investments in selected manufacturing sub-sectors and products as well as the processing of selected solid minerals in Nigeria
· Power and Gas sector: to increase private sector investments in the power sector, i.e. electricity generation across its value chain and energy mix, and the gas industries including expansion of the domestic market.
At the open day, the lead Ministers presented the lab outcomes from their respective sectors, particularly the agreed way forward to address the identified challenges hindering increased investment. It was also an opportunity to elicit feedback from the private sector and the public and a number of lab participants made presentations, sharing their experiences.
In his Keynote address, the Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, pointed out that that ERGP was unlike other plans introduced by governments in the past. “At its core is a focused approach to its implementation, supported in particular, by the highest level of political will, from the President himself through to our civil servants on the ground… It is no longer business as usual for us in government.”
The Vice President said given the political will of the current administration which comes from the highest level, government is working to ensure that the promises made in the President’s manifesto come to fruition for the people of Nigeria. “It is our aim to make these Focus Labs a success so that Nigeria can take a transformative step towards sustained economic prosperity and social liveability.”
He assured the private sector that government would deal frontally with all issues raised during the conduct of the labs and the feedback that emanated from there to improve the business environment for the growth of the economy.
According to him, the Central Steering Committee, which he chairs, will continue to meet regularly, at the cabinet level, to address the bottlenecks identified in the labs. “In addition, there is a standing committee of Permanent Secretaries in about seven ministries, who have been mandated to ensure that the key implementation decisions made during the Labs are followed through to implementation. I have mandated a monthly progress report on issues resolved on behalf of the private sector. It is no longer business as usual for us in government.
Welcoming participants and guests, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said having clearly recognised that lack of implementation was a major factor that caused the failures of previous national plans, the Focus Lab approach, among other initiatives, was adopted to help government translate high level plans into detailed operational activities, in close collaboration between government agencies, the private sector and civil societies.
The Minister disclosed that the initial labs were able to identify 164 projects spread over the six geopolitical zones of the country with a total potential investment worth US$22.5 billion and 513,981 jobs by 2020. Of this amount, US$ 10.9 billion worth of private investments are categorized as ‘most ready’ to go.
“Specifically, disaggregating with respect to each of the work-stream, US$ 4.73 billion worth of investment have been identified in the Agriculture and Transport Labs, with a potential to create about 129,000 jobs; US$9.25 billion investments, with a potential of 378,000 new jobs was identified in the Manufacturing and Processing Labs, whilst US$8.57 billion worth of investments will come from Power and Gas with the potential of creating up to 7,000 jobs”, he said.
He added that the investment projects identified in the Labs will span beyond 2020; and by projection, the cumulative investment value of the identified projects could rise to about US$39.12 billion by 2025 and about 716, 079 jobs could be created.
While indicating that these are encouraging outcomes, Senator Udoma pointed out that more work is required to ensure that these potential investments unlocked in the labs are fully realised. As he said, “the work we started in the labs must continue and the ERGP Implementation Unit is geared up to continue to see these projects, and many, many more projects through. As we make it easier to do business we expect to be able to attract more and more businesses to set up in Nigeria.’
Government, he added, will be organising public town-halls periodically during the implementation phase, to display new projects and get public feedback; an approach he is confident would provide better results. In conclusion Senator Udoma said, ‘We will not rest till we deliver. There is no doubt that by tackling the constraints to growth; by leveraging on the power of the private sector and by allowing markets to function, we are placing Nigeria firmly on the path of diversified, inclusive and sustainable growth.”