Buhari Launches ERGP Focused Labs

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• Says Nigeria’s labour force outgrowing population growth
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja appraised Nigeria’s economic growth rate, stating that the country’s labour force  is currently outgrowing the country’s population growth.

Buhari who made this remark at the launch of focused labs for Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) in the Presidential Villa, said the government was duty bound to sustain the growth initiative to attract foreign investment with a view to expanding the frontiers of the country’s economy and create jobs.

The president who reeled out the benefits accruable from the labs, disclosed that he had instructed ministers and heads of agencies to make themselves available at the labs for those who want to make enquiries.

Promising that his government would not relent its commitment until improvement in the economic indices result in improvement in the living standards of the people, Buhari said he looked forward to regular updates on the labs.
“However, we are not relenting on our efforts until these improvements in economic indices translate to visible improvements in the lives of our citizens. Our labour force growth rate exceeds our population growth. We must therefore continue working to attract both local and foreign investments to ensure we continue expanding economic activities thereby creating additional jobs for our people.

“The Labs will also enable pre-screened private sector investors to have access to senior government officials, regulators, and cabinet ministers. The goal is to efficiently and effectively resolve the most pressing bottlenecks delaying their proposed investments. Accordingly, I have directed the relevant Ministers and heads of government agencies to be available to the participants at the labs to respond to their inquiries and issues.

“ Let me commend the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and other relevant agencies for piloting this process, which is being used for the first time in Nigeria. I am confident that the Labs will open up new investments to complement our existing efforts in agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructural development across the country.
“I look forward to receiving regular updates on the progress of the Labs. On this note, I am pleased to launch the  Economic Recovery and Growth Plan Focus Labs formally,” he said.

Describing the labs as one of the strategies for the implementation of ERGP, the president listed the goals of ERGP to include achieving sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth, becoming self-sufficient in basic commodities to curtail food imports; diversifying economic base from crude oil dependence, empowering local businesses to create thousands of jobs and improving the general wellbeing of our people.

He said the labs had been successfully used in other countries, pointing out that in Nigeria, they “are designed as closed-door investment platforms to identify and accelerate high-impact projects with significant impact on GDP and job creation.”

According to him, in the last 10 months since the launch of ERGP, the country’s economy had recorded notable growth which he said culminated in the gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.92 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017..
He also said the foreign exchange market had been stable while foreign reserve had grown from $24 billion in 2016to $46  billion in mid-February adding that the country had also made notable improvement in ease of doing business initiative with its rating as one of the top ten improved economies of the world.

The president also stated that huge sums of money are being invested in infrastructure while significant progress had also been made in agriculture adding that the government would continue to build on its success in fertilizer supply, among other areas of growth he listed.

“In the past ten months, we have achieved several noteworthy milestones. As you are aware, economic growth returned in second quarter of 2017 due to a clear follow-through of some of the economic initiatives we set out to implement. Since then, we have consolidated on the recovery path reaching a Real GDP growth of 1.92% by the fourth quarter of 2017.

“We have also restored stability in foreign exchange market and have recorded improvements in our foreign reserves which have grown from 24 billion US dollars in September 2016 to 42 billion US dollars by mid-February 2018 and now 46 billion US dollars. This has been achieved partially because of the recovery of oil prices on the international market.

“We have made remarkable strides in creating a conducive business environment for investors, earning the World Bank’s ranking as one of the Top 10 most improved economies in 2017. This has encouraged both local and foreign investments in the last few months We remain committed to working hard to attain our target of moving up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings by 2020.

 “We are also investing billions of naira in fixing infrastructures across the country. Significant progress has also been made in the Agricultural sector with the expansion of the Anchor Borrower’s program to more beneficiaries to boost our local production.

“We plan to build upon the success of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to double the 500,000 metric tons of fertilizer delivered to States, agro-dealers and farmers in 2017, by achieving production output of 1 million metric tons in 2018.
“ Today, our local food production, particularly rice, has witnessed a remarkable growth and has saved the nation millions of dollars of foreign exchange,” the president submitted.