Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, wednesday told participants at the United Kingdom-Nigeria Trade and Investment Forum in London that now is the right time to invest in Nigeria â€œwith economic policy initiatives yielding positive results coupled with a stable political climateâ€™â€™ in the country,
The Special Adviser (Media) to the minister, Mr. Akpandem James, quoted Udoma as stating this while speaking at the plenary session of the forum, saying Nigeriaâ€™s outlook for 2018 was very positive as the country had since exited recession and the economy was steadily growing again.
He explained that as part of government effort to transform the economy and deliver sustained, diversified and inclusive growth, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was put together and several initiatives in the plan are being implemented to remove constraints to investments, adding that some of the initiatives include the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) and the Focus Labs.
Enumerating the reforms and initiatives introduced across various sectors of the economy, Udoma said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had established Investors and Exporters Foreign Exchange window to deepen the foreign exchange market, boost liquidity and accommodate all foreign exchange requirements.
â€˜â€™The establishment of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council as a vehicle for partnering the private sector on the industrialisation agenda, completion of 60-day National Action Plan on Ease of Doing Business, including the visa-on-arrival policy and issuance of Executive Order on Ease of Doing Business, are other initiatives of government which the minister mentioned,â€™â€™ the statement added.
He was also said to have mentioned the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with budgetary provision of N46 billion in the 2017 budget and N46.39 billion in the 2018 proposal; and partnering the private sector on infrastructure development, including the Road Trust Fund Scheme, Concessionsâ€™ arrangements, Public Private Partnerships (PPP) among others.
Pointing to the on-going Focus Labs with initial focus on agriculture and transportation, Power and Gas as well as Manufacturing and Processing, the minister said the labs were being conducted to unlock private investments and tackle constraints to investments.
While stressing that growth had been restored in the economy, Udoma explained that signs of recovery from recession were observed in the third quarter of 2016, and by the third quarter of 2017, real GDP grew by 0.72 people, indicating the economyâ€™s exit from recession.
â€œRecovery Consolidated in the third quarter through the fourth quarter of 2017 with GDP rising to 1.92%. Real GDP growth for full year in 2017 was 0.83 percent from 1.58 percent in 2016,â€ he added.
Given the positive impact the reform initiatives have had on the economy and the improved management of the economy by the current administration, the minister said investorsâ€™ confidence is returning, capital inflows were increasing, inflation rate had declined from 18.72 per cent in January 2017 to 13.34 per cent by March 2018; Foreign Reserves had grown from $23.81billion in September 2016 to $46.55 billion by April 4, 2018, and the countryâ€™s Ease of Doing Business ranking has improved and is up by 24 places from 169 in 2016 to 145 in 2017,â€ he stated
That confidence, Udoma indicated, had seen the total value of capital imported into Nigeria rising from $908.3 million in the first quarter of 2017 to $1,792.4 million in the second quarter of 2017 and further to $4,145 million in the third quarter of 2017.
â€œWhile the third quarter of 2017 recorded an increase of 131.3 per cent more than the second quarter of 2017, the fourth quarter of 2017 came in even much stronger with a total capital importation value of $5,381.4 million,â€ he added.
The minister said Nigeria is a country with enormous potential with vast opportunities for investment given its rich natural resources including oil wealth, solid minerals and fertile land.
Other presenters, including the Managing Director, Chief Economist, Africa and Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank, Ms Razia Khan, also supported this positive outlook for Nigeria.
In her contributions, Khan, an economist, emphasised that, unlike in the past, Nigerian growth was getting a little more balanced as the non-oil sector was also beginning to grow.
She commended the federal government for developing a long term plan which has helped to restore confidence.