Infrastructure Remains Strong Catalyst for Economic Development, Growth, Says Fashola

Bennett Oghifo

Former Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola has said that solid infrastructure fuels a nation’s economic development.

Fashola stated this in his keynote speech at an infrastructure promotion event in Lagos, recently, where he reacted to those who do not believe that good infrastructure grows the economy, saying “…such a position is tantamount to economic heresy in the face of the contrary and preponderant empirical evidence available in global developmental economics.“

The former minister pointedly declared that infrastructure remains a strong catalyst for economic development and growth. Amidst the challenges popularly identified as responsible for stressing up critical sectors of the economy, Fashola posited that sectors like tourism and entertainment among several others need infrastructure to grow the economy, adding that the current situation accounts for why talents are not being rewarded enough to enhance the nations GDP. He said“I must say that construction companies are the most legitimate firms doing the most legitimate business right now. The reason is simple: once you disburse money to them you feel the spiral and multiplier effect all over; and because they outsource their jobs, it can easily be said that they are huge sharers of national wealth.“

The former minister added: “Imagine the resources Julius Berger and other construction companies spent on procurements and supplies on the Second Niger Bridge, Apapa-Oworonsoki Expressway and Lagos-Sagamu Expressway. What about their expenditures for haulage, quarry services among others. Indeed there is a strong connection between construction of infrastructure and the multiplier effect on development of nations as has been manifestly, historically demonstrated by the Marshall Plan of post World War II era.“

Arguing that funding infrastructural commitments is not easy, he added that the resort to ingenious initiatives like SUKUK, the Tax Credit Scheme, Highways Development Initiatives are laudable moves to ensure the development and growth of infrastructures for the general good and progress of the society and economy.

Giving examples of the foregoings, Fashola recalled that Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas, NLNG firm bought into the Bodo-Bonny road infrastructure project, while Dangote Group did same with a N400 billion commitment in another project. MTN is on Enugu-Onitsha highway while Bua company bought into another.

He emphasised a caveat though: “if there is continuity of these commitments, there will surely be no cause for worry about Nigeria’s infrastructural growth before long,“ adding however that the outlook for the construction industry is one of positivity and progress.

Managing Director of the company, Engr. Dr. Las Richter also spoke at the Luminary Soiree and defined the symbiotic relationship between investment in infrastructure and development saying that, operationally, a huge developmental gap still indeed exists to be plugged in Nigeria’s infrastructure basket. While acknowledging that Fashola has demonstrated expertise in construction matters, the Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria added that good quality costs money. Richter said, “…if you want to deliver quality asset to government, you must design properly to last and if you want an infrastructure of quality, you have to look for good work and competent and worthy expertise.“ Richter debunked views in some quarters about the cost of Julius Berger‘ projects saying, “Julius Berger is not expensive. I assure you that if you get Julius Berger to work for you, the great quality you get will be cheaper in the long term and every client will be happy at the end of the day.“

The Managing Director of Zenith Bank Nigeria Plc, Ebenezer Onyeagwu supported Fashola’s position. He said infrastructure is the bedrock of development even as he lamented that Nigeria still lags behind. “It is time to look at Bond issuance to fund infrastructures. Apart from the government we can look at PPP. I intend to discuss with Julius Berger on this even as he added that, infrastructures are built to last for a period and proper maintenance among others are required,“ the banker further said.

Julius Berger Nigeria attendees at the 2023 Luminary Soiree include the Board Chairman, Mutiu Sunmonu, Board member and Chairman, Abumet, Mrs Bella Disu, Managing Director, Engr. Dr. Las Richter, Financial Director, Christian Hausemann, Incoming Director, Corporate Development, Jochem Stole, General Manager, Abuja Furniture Production, AFP, Oliver Cohnen and Commercial Manager, AFP, Kossman Norbert.

Others in attendance include Region West, RWE Regional Manager, Technical, Christl Thomas, RWE Regional Manager, Commercial, Alexander Bauer, Senior Executive, Strategic Business Development, Ndifreke Ukochio, Head, Media Relations Office, Prince Moses Duku, Head, Corporate Communications Department, James Agama, Dayo of the Senior Staff Association and Assistant Senior Liaison Officer, Emmanuel Isibor among several others.

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