James Emejo in Abuja
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, thursday reiterated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to fully diversify the economy as well as halt further decline.
He said the present government had been able to restore the economy on the path of growth through the introduction of an expansionary fiscal budget in 2016 to reflate the economy and stimulate economic activity.
According to the minister, the expansionary budget was accompanied by the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) which contained a series of short-term measures aimed at boosting economic activities so as to restore confidence.
Speaking in his keynote address at the 42nd Annual Conference of Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (CISAN) in Lagos, he said the five key execution priorities in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) were further tailored towards building a diversified and resilient economy.
“These are ensuring stability in the macroeconomic environment, achieving agricultural transformation and food security, ensuring energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, improving transportation infrastructure, and driving industrialization focusing on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs),” he said.
He added that as Minister of Budget and National Planning, he had tried to ensure that budgetary allocations reflected key priorities.
Udoma said:”For instance, in Agriculture, from a rather small capital allocation of N8.8 billion in 2015, capital allocation to Agriculture has improved to N46.2 billion in 2016, N103.8 billion in 2017 and to N149.2 billion in 2018. Allocations to the Ministry of Water Resources whose activities impact on agriculture have also been increased from N15.78 billion in 2015, to N46.08 billion in 2016, N104.25 billion in 2017 and N147.2 billion this year. “
He noted that through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, over N120.6 billion has been disbursed as concessionary loans to more than 800,000 farmers for the cultivation of 12 different commodities including rice, wheat, cotton, soya beans, cassava, and groundnuts.
He said to date, 11 Fertiliser Blending Plants with the capacity to produce 2.1 million metric tonnes have been revitalised, leading to a significant drop in fertiliser prices per bag.
He said:”With these initiatives, we have witnessed a significant drop in rice importation. Other agricultural initiatives include the National Sugar Master Plan and the new Tomato Policy, which have both been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). This has led to increased local production of sugar, particularly in Niger and Adamawa States by Golden Sugar Ltd. and Savannah Sugar Ltd.
“Successful agriculture requires an expansion in processing and other facilities to ensure sustained demand. Under the ERGP we are committed to intensifying the implementation of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP).
“In this context, we have commenced the establishment of new industrial parks, as well as upgrading existing industrial parks. We are also establishing, in partnership with the private sector, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across the six geo-political zones in the country. In the 2018 Budget, N44.2 billion was set aside as counterpart funding for Special Economic Zones. “
Udoma said government was making good progress in its efforts to revive and diversify the economy.
However, he submitted that the economy was not sufficiently diversified yet and called for joint efforts at achieving full diversification.
“We need to grow our non-oil exports to overtake oil in terms of our foreign exchange earnings as countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have achieved.
“This will take some time. However, there is no doubt in my mind that we are on the right track. If we consistently and faithfully continue with the implementation of the ERGP we will become an economic production powerhouse.
“We will be able to feed ourselves and have extra for export. We will be able to manufacture many of our basic requirements. We will be able to grow our non-oil exports to overtake our oil exports in value.
“We have been implementing the ERGP for only 18 months. If we stay the course and continue implementing the programme in a focused and consistent manner we will surely have the Nigeria of our dreams where we grow what we eat, consume what we make and produce what we use.”