The Federal Government says that Nigeria’s current foreign reserves has peaked at US$40 billion against the previous high of US$24 billion in September, 2016, an indication of the country’s economic recovery and reversal of capital flight.
The government, through the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, disclosed this yesterday, in Abuja, in a bid to encourage state governments to key into the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), and to ensure full participation of sub-regional governments in the Focus Labs scheduled to commence next month.
In a statement released by the Senior Special Adviser, Akpandem James, Udoma explained that the purpose of the Labs set-up was part of Government’s effort to ensure full and effective implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Evidence of this is the fact that we have successfully reversed the capital flight we had been experiencing, and as a result our foreign reserves have been rising. Indeed, our foreign reserves are currently over US$40 billion, up from about US$23 billion as at September 2016.
“In addition, our forex markets and rates have stabilised, and our ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking has moved up 24 places from 169 in 2016 to 145 in 2017,” he said.
Udoma added that: “The ERGP was fashioned out to address the challenging economy which the Muhammadu Buhari inherited, as he pointed out that some positive results are already manifesting following the adoption of the ERGP, including the economy’s exit from recession in the second quarter of 2017.
“Furthermore, we have succeeded in reversing the rising rate of inflation, and since the first quarter of 2017, the rate of inflation has been declining. Confidence in the economy has returned.”
Whilst pointing out the positive trends, the Minister said more still needs to be done to achieve the ambitious targets of the ERGP, and to ensure that the benefits of the improved economic performance is felt by most Nigerians.
“And that is why we are embarking on these Focus Labs to quicken the pace of the improvement of the economy and the achievement of the targets we have set for ourselves in the ERGP.”
He noted that weak implementation has always been the bane of past development plans, which was why the present administration decided to set up the ERGP Implementation Unit in the Ministry to facilitate the delivery of key execution priorities of the plan. It is this Implementation Unit that is organising the Focus Labs, he added.
The Focus Labs is basically the bringing together of all relevant players: investors, both domestic and international, subject matter specialists, government officials at both Federal and State level, and other participants and stakeholders, to mobilise high impact investments for large projects that would contribute significantly to Gross Domestic Product and job-creation.
It would be a fora for private sector investors to bring forward entry-point projects they would like to invest in, and discuss with senior government officials in a closed setting.
The Minister explained that the programme is aimed at driving big, fast results in selected areas. The Labs will be starting with three key areas: Agriculture and Transport, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas, reflecting some of the execution priorities of the ERGP; but will continue subsequently in other areas such as entertainment, services, sports and the media.
He recalled that at the last National Economic Council meeting on Thursday January 18, 2018, he had briefed state governors on the Labs and asked for the participation of states.
The Wednesday meeting was a follow-up engagement with representatives of states on the process.
“It is important and critical that we work closely with the states, as most of the investments will be located in the states. In short, it is the state governments that will be hosting most of the investors. As the representatives of the states, we will be working with you to identify suitable projects that meet certain criteria such as GDP contribution, job creation, project readiness, amongst others,” he said.
One of the targets of the ERGP, the Minister explained, is to create 15 million new jobs between 2017 and 2020, with collaboration with several stakeholders, including the state governments, to create solutions.
The Federal Government, he said, is very keen on the job creation impact of the projects that would benefit from these Labs.
New commercial projects that commence production in the states, he added, would translate to thousands of jobs that enhance the livelihood of citizens, and lead to increase in tax revenue to state governments.