By Kingsley Okoye
Abuja – The Federal Government is working on modalities for setting up focused labs in some critical areas of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to consolidate the gains of the economic diversification programme.
The Minster of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma made the disclosure, while briefing members of the Senate Committee on National Planning on the state of the economy
The minster in a statement by his Special Adviser on media, Mr Akpandem James, said the labs were intended to bring all relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors into weeks of intensive working sessions.
He said the sessions was to brainstorm on practical steps to overcoming any identified challenges in the selected areas of the economy.
The central objective of the labs, Udo Udoma explained, would be to bring in private capital to finance a number of development projects across the country.
The minister said government has already engaged some economic and development experts from the private sector and the academia on ERGP implementation to facilitate the process.
He told the Senators that an implementation unit has been set up in the ministry to closely monitor the implementation of the critical initiatives of the plan and periodically evaluate implementation progress against set targets and milestones.
He said the unit would also provide early warning signals on potential risks and work closely with the MDAs to articulate actionable measures against any identified constraints.
The minister also expressed some views on the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report on the country’s exit from recession.
According to him, even though a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 0.55 per cent is not a substantial growth rate, nevertheless, it is significant because the downward drift has been arrested.
“That fact that the downward drift has been arrested and the economic indicators are pointing upwards is a significant step forward in the effort to reposition the economy.
“The economy you remember took a downward trajectory beginning 2014 and slipped into a recession in the second quarter of 2016,” he said.
The minister explained that with population growth rate at about 3 per cent, the 0.55 per cent growth in GDP was not likely to make any appreciable impact on people’s lives.
He, however, was optimistic that by the time the 2020 target of 7 per cent was realised, the full impact of the growth would be felt by Nigerians.
According to him, the gladdening aspect of the development is that some promising growth levels are being recorded in the non-oil sector, with agriculture posting 3.01 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 and Industry turning positive for the first time in nine quarters.
“Compared to the situation last year where 27 out of 46 economic activities recorded negative growth, only 21 recorded negative in the second quarter of 2017.
“Headline inflation has declined since January reflecting tight monetary policy and strengthened Naira in the foreign exchange market”, he added
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso said the achievements would be more appreciated when the people start feeling the impact of the economic reforms in their daily dealings.
A member of the committee, Sen. Madaki Bukar advised that serious consideration should be given to the establishment of micro-finance banks in the rural areas to enable local farmer have access to credits.
According to him, if the economic fortunes of the local farmers and small scale entrepreneurs improve, the larger economy will benefit from some kind of multiplier effect.
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