Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Commissioners for Budget and Economic Development and Permanent Secretaries of related departments in states of the federation yesterday gathered in Abuja to contribute ideas and consider inputs into the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The gathering was part of the federal government initiative to harvest inputs from all segments of the country to produce an all-inclusive development plan that will pull the economy out of recession and set it on the path to sustainable growth and development.
In the last three weeks, the federal government has had consultations with economic experts, private sector operators, academic and government stakeholders, which generated very insightful perspectives and ideas on issues to consider in the plan.
During the week, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, had an interaction with chief financial officers of top corporate organisations in Lagos as well as a working session on the plan with development partners in Abuja.
The state governors were briefed on the plan Thursday last week.
Addressing the opening session of the state commissioners roundtable yesterday, the minister said their views and inputs were very necessary because of the critical role states play in the Nigerian economy.
The commissioners were to, among other things, review the context of the ERGP, identify the potential areas for states’ interventions, share the plan structure and discuss potential key initiatives expected to be implemented at the national and state levels, propose the role of states in ensuring effective implementation of the plan and provide inputs on the structure and content of the plan.
The minister said the plan became all the more imperative because of the current state of the economy which relapsed into recession in the second quarter of the year and which posted a GDP growth level of -2.24 per cent in the third quarter.
“The states are also badly hit, with oil prices and production volumes declining to low levels and the inability of most states to pay salaries and also meet up with other key expenditure/investment needs,” he said.
According to him, the recession reflects inherent structural issues in the nature of the country’s economy, the current manifestation of which began in mid-2014 when the global oil prices crashed.
He said the federal government has taken steps in the 2016 budget to proactively address the challenges in the 2016 Budget, and was designed to reflate the economy.
The Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) set out a number of initiatives which were designed to support the implementation of the budget. Many of the initiatives have started yielding results, he added.
The goal of the ERGP, the minister emphasised, is to have an economy with low inflation, stable exchange rates, and a diversified and inclusive growth.
“The proposed initiatives prescribed by the plan should address our poor competitiveness, improve the business environment and attract investment in infrastructure, especially power, roads, rail and ports.
“We desire a plan that is realistic and would achieve the desired results. Your views are certainly invaluable in this regard.”
The NRGP is expected to build on the existing SIP which was an interim plan developed in April, 2016.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in his foreword to the SIP, promised Nigerians that a fuller and more comprehensive medium-term plan will be prepared by the end of 2016.
The NRGP is intended to fulfill the dual goal of identifying short-term recovery initiatives and also presenting a medium-term plan.