As international Development Partners explore areas of support to help Nigeria grow a sustainable economy, Budget and Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has re-emphasized that Nigeria’s borrowings are solely to fund infrastructure projects.
Briefing the Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs of the Trade and Policy Department at the French Treasury, Mr Guillaume Chabert, in Abuja on Thursday, Senator Udoma explained that the stimulative effect of investing in infrastructure was enormous and was the surest way of setting the country on the part of growth and sustainable development.
The Minister told the Assistant Secretary, who was accompanied by the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Denys Gauer, that the Nigerian government is working on a National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP) which is tailor-made to move the country’s economy out of recession and set it on a growth path. “Our plan is that we should be able within that plan period (2017 – 2020) to achieve not less than 7% growth.”
This, he said, involves a number of things. “For one, to get out of economic recession we will need to harness resources by plugging revenue leakages and by looking at new revenue sources in order to generate the resources required to spend our way out of recession, particularly focused on infrastructure.”
He explained that while government is exploring other means of generating revenue internally, we will need to borrow, part of which has to be sourced internationally from sources that can give concessionary terms, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
“We know we need to look at upgrading our oil revenue in order to generate the resources to use to spend our way out of dependence on oil; which means we have to focus our attention on reducing the disruptions in the Niger Delta, so that we can get our production back to a minimum of 2.2 million barrels per day. That is the fastest way to generate resources.,” he said.
Government cannot do it all alone, he pointed out, which is why the present government is emphasizing creating an enabling environment for effective private sector participation in growing the economy. Apart from efforts made in the area of ease of doing business, the Minister said government is going into partnership with the private sector in critical areas of infrastructure provision and concessioning.
“Our intention is to make the private sector to lead the way in social housing. We will kick-start the process and intend to make some provision for it in the 2017 Budget. Then we are also looking at manufacturing. One of the ways is by developing export processing zones where we will have all the required infrastructure including power, rail and security, to encourage manufacturers to relocate to Nigeria.
“We want to make sure that the growth will be an inclusive one. In the past, we used to have growth that was not inclusive. We were growing but poverty was increasing. We want to make sure that the growth is inclusive. One of the ways is to give preference to labour intensive activities to create jobs, which is the fastest way to reduce poverty. In addition to that, we will continue with our social intervention projects”, he informed.
The Minister expressed government’s appreciation for the support by the French Government, particularly in terms of the various bilateral as well as multilateral support, directly and through the European Union respectively. “This is a relationship that we cherish and will like to continue to develop and enrich”, he added.
The Assistant Secretary, Mr Chabert, while appreciating the economic challenges the country is currently facing said the French government would be willing to support Nigeria surmount the challenges as he said “it is in our interest that Nigeria succeeds”.
He promised to make some input into the country’s economic plan once the framework is made available.