By Donald Ugwu
Abuja – Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday reiterated the determination of the present administration to focus on the development of the people of the country.
He said this in a remark at the Special and Expanded National Economic Council meeting in Abuja, attended by Mr Bill Gates, the Chief Executive of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chairman of Dangote Foundation, Aliko Dangote.
“We are focused on the well-being of the people of this country,’’ he said, noting the setbacks suffered by the country in the past in spite of the high revenue from oil.
He said that the government was now more determined to make the kind of progress that would rewrite the story of the country by putting the money of Nigeria to work for Nigerians.
According to him, the government has remained true to that vision and has ramped up investments in infrastructure and social spending with less oil resources.
Osinbajo stated that the administration was widening the revenues by plugging revenue leakages and expanding the tax net to ensure that government invested more on things that mattered.
He said that besides expenditure on education and healthcare, government was expending resources in so many areas.
The Vice President stated that a lot of investments in education were coming from private interventions, local and state governments as well as other government agencies such as TETFUND and UBEC.
However, he noted that there was the need to “spend smarter” because in some places, there was overlap while others were lacking.
Osinbajo said that the was creating the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, adding that succeeding would mean creating more of Aliko Dangotes.
“That represents for our growing economy more jobs, and countless opportunities for the kind of well-changing philanthropy.
“Our education and health budgets are nowhere near optimal levels but I can assure you that we possess the political will and vision to make the needed investments for today and tomorrow and we are on the path of progress.’’
He said that the social investment programmes of the government were yielding results, including the 30 per cent rise in school enrolment following the free school feeding programme meant to address malnutrition and stunted growth of children.
Osinbajo stated that government could not do it alone and that made it to remain grateful for the generous partnership from the Gates Foundation, Dangote Foundation and the numerous development partners.
The Ministers of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole and Education, Adamu Adamu, had painted gory pictures of the country’s position in the development of the sectors and called for partnership from other agencies.
The ministers stated that funding was the major problems in the sectors and noted that without good education and healthcare the human development index would remain low.
Bill Gates, in an address, noted the giant strides the country had made in immunization, polio eradication and social investments and urged it not to relent.
He said that the country’s revenue as a percentage of the GDP, was the lowest in the world at six per cent, thus making investments difficult.
Gates also said that lack of access to finance made it difficult for SMEs to grow but added that his foundation was ready to partner the country to mobilise more resources for investment.
“Nigerians are known around the World for their big dreams and big ambitions; together with Dangote Foundation, we will be here to help you achieve your dreams and ambitions,’’ Gates said.
Also, Dangote said that he was challenged to solve such problems as malnutrition plaguing the country and preventing children from realizing their potential.
He said that for Nigeria to compete globally, it must invest in the health, education and infrastructure.(NAN)