- El-Rufai advises govs to take advantage of financing opportunities
James Emejo in Abuja
The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, Thursday said its net portfolio commitment to the country currently stood at over $11 billion, with 30 operational projects in all the states of the federation.
The disclosure coincided with the call by Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, on other governors to take advantage of the World Bank support instrument to develop their respective states.
Speaking at the Nigeria Portfolio Performance Awards, which was organised in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Benmessaoud said the projects were spread across the health, education, agriculture, social protection, energy, infrastructure and governance among other sectors.
He said the bank was also developing a new country partnership framework that would outline the new reform challenges in order to “support the government in implementing the solutions to these challenges.”
Benmessaoud, however, said the country partnership strategy had been anchored on the economic reform plan of the government, particularly the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which is the medium term programme of the government on which it had aligned the country partnership framework.
He also said the bank will “continue to be on our toes until we see sustained development in all aspects of the socio-economic environment of Nigeria.”
Benmessaoud, however, noted that investing in human capital remained critical towards helping Nigeria to meet its development objectives, adding that the role of the private sector in fast tracking development outcomes was also crucial in areas such as infrastructure.
On plans to improve its funding intervention in the country, he said: “We have plans to scale up but to scale up is not only about funding – before one can say you scale up you put out more money.
“I think it is really important to realise that even if we scale up, it would not be sufficient to address the larger gap that is needed to be filled for example in human capital or infrastructure financing.
“So, we feel that the World Bank can play a catalytic role in creating a conducive environment for the private sector to finance infrastructure, that we can create the fiscal space for government to put more money in human capital and social spending.”
He said the institution’s partnership with government will continue to explore innovative ways to design and deliver projects that not only affect thousands of Nigerians, but those that change the circumstances of millions.
“This resolve is in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure 100 million Nigerians are lifted out of poverty in 10 years. We will work with you to further explore ways in which we can continue to enhance our ability to even be more efficient and effective in our joint operations.”
According to the country director, the maiden award ceremony, which would now hold on an annual basis, had been organised to celebrate and recognise success and performance over the course of implementing projects assisted by the World Bank in the country, noting that the Nigerian portfolio was currently among the largest in the entire Africa region.
He also advised more state governors to participate in its intervention programmes.
He said: “We will do this as an annual event and hope to make sure there are many more participation of governors in this kind of event because at the end of the day, we are the financiers of the projects but they are the ones who own, lead the implementation of these projects in their respective states. There is a very important ownership of the programmes in their respective states.”
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Dr. Mahmoud Isa- Dutse, disclosed that current disbursement portfolio of the World Bank projects had reached an unprecedented level of $1.4 billion, representing 23 per cent of portfolio disbursed compared to 18 per cent disbursed in 2018 and only about eight per cent in the 2017 fiscal year.
Isa-Dutse, however, noted that many of the projects had surpassed expectations while many had also performed below expectations, hence the award to encourage performing states, project implementation units and other stakeholders to maintain or even exceed their strides and to challenge others to catch up.
He said:” The Federal Ministry of Finance earnestly looks forward to a scenario where slow implementation, weak ownership by state governments and MDAs, delayed disbursements and absence of proper coordination mechanisms will be a thing of the past.
“While respective project portfolios are disbursed effectively and judiciously, the country derives maximum benefits on these loans by way of job creation, improved living conditions, reduction in poverty level and boosting of shared prosperity. We will assist the bank to deliver on all aspects of project implementation.”
Meanwhile, El-Rufai has commended the awards initiative and urged other states to seize advantage of the World Bank support instrument to develop their respective states.
He said: “One of the things I found is that most governors don’t know what is going on as far as World Bank finance projects are concerned.
“The project teams tend to micromanage the projects at the level of the ministry of finance and they liaise with the World Bank to take decisions- the governors are completely in the dark.
“Often, you find large amounts of money sitting idle that can be used for the benefit of the states that the governors are not aware of.
“So, I think this initiative by the World Bank to be regularly briefing governors by introducing this award in terms of states performances is a worthy initiative and will encourage the states organisation for managing World Bank’s projects to be better.”