- ‘FG Targets Seven Per cent Growth’
The Federal Government is targeting an ambitious seven per cent economic growth by 2020, against a mere 0.8 per cent achieved in 2017, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma has said.
Udoma, who spoke to journalists in Washington D.C. on the sidelines of the Spring meetings of the IMF/World Bank Group, said: “Our target is seven per cent in 2020 and that will make me comfortable; above seven per cent will make me even much more comfortable. And that is why we are working so hard.”
He however, admitted that the pace of growth is very slow, saying: “Even though we are working so hard, the rate of growth is still too slow. So we will like it to pick up, and that is why there is a need to work hard.
“They say the result for good result is more hard work, and so we are poised to continue to focus on the various measures on the ERGP. We believe that we are already seeing some positive results and we believe that we will get it.”
But a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, believes government is not working hard enough to achieving the growth target, especially in terms of attracting more foreign direct investments ((FDIs).
The banker, now the Emir of Kano, said that judging by the government representatives’ attitude at an investment forum organised by the Embassy in Washington, economic growth and expansion would be a hard sell.
“We had a meeting today with investors, we were supposed to start by 9am, but we started at 10. When I came in, they took me to the Ambassador’s office to sit down, while investors were waiting down there. We had a list of people who were to be there- Vice President, ministers, some of them are in town, but they haven’t come up.
“You invite top investors, your ministers are in Washington, and they do not come to talk to the investors about Nigeria; that is not how to attract investors. If you have this forum in the Rwandan Embassy, I assure you President Kagame himself would be there telling people to come to Rwanda.
“Sometimes it is about how we market ourselves and how we package ourselves. There is absolutely no reason for the Nigerian Embassy to arrange a business forum with ministers and governors in town, without a coordination that would allow them to meet with these investors, not even to start one hour late.
“There is no reason why the public address system should not work, because at the end of the day, this is the first point of the country. The investor hasn’t even come to Nigeria, so would be saying: “If I am having this experience in Washington, what will happen when I go to Abuja? Will it not take me 10 hours?
“I think we need to just look at those kinds of things that investors look at, and have a very honest conversation, sector by sector, region by region, state by state. What do we need to do to make those areas attractive?”“People are interested in agriculture, in power; they are interested in technology as you can see, it is not just oil; and these sectors are all over the country, but we need to understand exactly what it would require to bring them in and also which local partners you can rely on,” he said.
Despite the royal father’s criticism, Udoma was excited by the international community’s acknowledgement of Nigeria’s growth efforts, saying the country is “very encouraged by the fact that the positives developments in Nigeria are being recognised.”He expressed gratitude that the positive developments about Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the things that Nigeria is doing to encourage investment and make it more investment friendly, are being recognised.
“And the fact that the economy is out of recession and growing again is also being recognized, as well as that growth is not dependent solely on oil. That there is growth in agriculture and other areas, has been a positive meeting for me.”The Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, dismissed fears that the delay in the passage of the 2018 budget by the National Assembly will affect growth projections.
“The MDAs, learning from the experience of the past, are gearing up for the budget to be passed and taking preliminary steps in their procurement and waiting for the budget. We hope that as was the case for the 2017 budget that was not passed until June, we still managed to attain a nominal level of capital expenditure that is the highest in the nation’s history,” he said.He recalled that about N1.3 trillion had been released on the 2017 capital budget, adding that recurrent budget remains high because of very heavy overhead.
“When you look at the high non-debt recurrent component of the budget – 70 per cent of that is personnel cost. Therefore, the only realistic way you can drastically reduce recurrent expenditure now is to cut personnel.“At this time, that is not an option that the government is looking at. Therefore, the focus now is on containing other aspects of recurrent expenditure and shoring up revenue,” he explained.