Several of today’s newspapers carried a story in which the philanthropist, Mr. Bill Gates is said to have taken issue with the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). It seems the context in which Mr. Gates made his remarks was not well understood.
A close reading of his statement shows that the point Mr. Gates was making was that the human capital development should have been explicitly indicated as part of the execution priorities of the ERGP. This is not the same as saying that the ERGP does not address human capital development or that Mr. Gates faulted Nigeria’s economic plans as some newspapers put it.
This development however provides an opportunity to clarify several things about the ERGP.
1. ERGP prioritises human capital development
The ERGP rests on the three pillars of restoring growth, investing in the Nigerian people and building a competitive economy. The pillar of ‘investing in the Nigerian people’ is nothing other than human capital development consisting as it does of education, health and social investments, and a whole chapter of the ERGP is devoted to this important pillar. Therefore the ERGP indeed prioritises human capital development.
The ERGP sets out 60 strategies cutting across all sectors of the economy. Indeed, over one quarter of them (strategies 31 to 47) fall into the category of Investing in the Nigerian people. The execution priorities of the ERGP are restoring macroeconomic balance, achieving agriculture and food security, ensuring energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, improving transportation infrastructure and driving industrialization through SMEs. These interventions were chosen because of their potential for fast-tracking economic recovery and expected contribution of the private sector to accelerating growth, which is one of the key principles of the ERGP. In other words, the execution priorities are catalysts for implementing all the strategies in the ERGP.
These priority areas have cross-cutting potentials which are all focused towards empowering the people through creating jobs and improving their general conditions. In other words, all the areas indicated are underpinned by the emphasis on investing in the people. Every single one of the execution priorities has the people at the centre.
2. Human capital development spending has gone up
To demonstrate the commitment of government to improving human capital development at the national level, the Federal Government has made significant increases in capital allocations in human capital related sectors in the last three years in spite of dwindling revenues.
For instance, capital allocations to education, including Universal Basic Education (UBEC), in the 2015 Budget was N91.903 billion, but the allocation was increased to N112.543 billion in 2016; N152 billion in 2017 and N170.79 billion is proposed for 2018 budget.
In the health sector, while N22.676 billion was provided in the 2015 budget for Capital expenditure, N28.65 billion was provided in the 2016 budget; N55.61 billion in 2017; and N71.11 billion in the 2018 budget proposal.
3. Focus on social intervention programmes
In addition, the current administration has launched a wide-ranging Social Investment Programme which caters for human development for which a total budgetary allocation of N500 billion has been provided in the 2016 and 2017 budgets as well as the 2018 budget proposals. Apart from providing the much needed jobs, the N-Power Scheme deploys young graduates to serve as teaching assistants, public health officials and agricultural extension workers. Similarly the Home Grown School Feeding Programme provides a meal a day to children in public primary schools. All these interventions contribute to human capital development.
4. Collaboration with States to deepen human capital development
The Federal Government is committed to improving human capital development at all levels by deepening collaboration with the States. That is why this special session of the National Economic Council on human capital development was convened.
It was aimed at:
· increasing attention of government at all levels on human capital development in line with the ERGP
· enhancing the quality of expenditure so as to achieve the improved outcomes set out in the ERGP.