Representatives of state governments on Wednesday met in Abuja at a workshop organized by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning as part of the integration process by the Federal Government to ensure full participation of sub-regional governments in the Focus Labs scheduled to commence next month.
At the meeting, the Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, explained that the workshop was designed for representatives of state governments to explain the essence of the labs set up as part of Government’s effort to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
He explained that the meeting was to explore how best state governments can be fully integrated into the lab process because the full participation of state governments in the labs is necessary to ensure its success.
The Minister reminded them that the ERGP was fashioned out to address the challenged 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. 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 indicated.
Whilst these positive results are encouraging, the Minister said more still needs to be done to achieve the ambitious targets of the ERGP and 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 are 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. The focus labs therefore are fora for private sector investors to bring forward their entry-point project or projects they would like to invest in, and discuss with senior government officials in a closed setting.
The Minister explained that these are aimed at driving big, fast results in the selected area. 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 the Governors on the labs and asked for the participation of States. The Wednesday meeting was a follow-up engagement with representatives of the 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.”
One of the targets of the ERGP, he explained, is to create 15 million new jobs between 2017 and 2020, and the strategy is to collaborate with several stakeholders including the State Governments to co-create solutions to make this happen; because the Federal Government 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 the people, and lead to increase in income taxes to the State Governments.
Explaining government’s strategy, the Minister said the first step in the lab process is for stakeholders to work jointly together to filter through the kind of projects that would benefit most from the labs.
In the course of the workshop, details of how these projects would be filtered and short-listed were explained by members of the ERGP Implementation team and officials of the Nigeria Investment Promotions Council (NIPC).
Special Adviser (Media) to the Hon. Minister