The Nigerian economy will be significantly better in 2018 going by the consistent positive trend of key indicators since the country emerged from recession in the second quarter of last year, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has said.
Senator Udoma who was speaking at the 2018 Economic Outlook Forum of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Kings Court Parish, in Lagos over the weekend, said that these positive sentiments are shared by most international and local rating agencies, who support the view that the Nigerian economy is poised to grow rapidly in 2018.
Senator Udoma indicated that this growth will create opportunities for investment in areas such as agriculture and agro-processing, industry, mining, construction and services.
He emphasized that in order to continue on the positive trajectory, it is important that we sustain the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. He assured that Government is determined to lead in that effort and appealed to the private sector to respond to the various initiatives which the Government has been rolling out. As he said, “there is no doubt that more work needs to be done and we all must work together to achieve sustainable results”.
The Minister said the ERGP was designed to tackle constraints to growth, leverage the power of the private sector, promote national cohesion and social inclusion, allow markets to function and uphold our core values. The broad objectives of the plan, he explained, include restoring and sustaining growth, building a competitive economy and investing in our people.
The main focus of the plan, he explained further, is to stabilize the macroeconomic environment, achieve agriculture and food security, improve transportation infrastructure, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products and drive industrialization focusing on SMEs.
He was happy to report that since the ERGP was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari early last year, the implementation of its programmes and policies had propelled the economy out of recession and back on to a growth trajectory. As the National Bureau of Statistics report showed that the economy has been making gradual but steady gains as the GDP growth rate had risen to 1.40% by the 3rd Quarter of 2017, just as agriculture had grown by 3.06% and Industry by 8.83% within the same period.
He was also happy to note that confidence has also returned to the economy, as evidenced by the 131.3% growth in the value of Capital importation in the 3rd Quarter of 2017 over the amount recorded in the 2nd Quarter. Also he pointed out that foreign reserves which were on the decline when the Administration took over in 2015 have now risen from $23.81 billion in September 2016 to $40.4 billion – a very substantial rise and a clear indication that the Nigerian economy is on the mend.
He also referred to the stable exchange rate and the narrowing gap between the CBN foreign currency exchange rate and the parallel market rate, as well as the declining inflation rate which has reduced from 18.72% in January 2016 to 15.90% by November 2017. Another positive development has been the fact that Nigeria has moved up 24 places in the most recent World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings.
Indeed, he was happy to note that Nigeria has been recognized by the World Bank as one of the top ten reforming countries in the world. He emphasized that all these positive developments are the reasons for the great optimism in Nigeria’s economic performance in 2018.
“There is so much potential in the country and it is this potential and the results of our initiatives that make the 2018 outlook so positive. So, we are targeting a GDP growth rate of 3.5% for this year and 7% by 2020; and an inflation rate of 12.54% for 2018 and single digit inflation of 9.9% by 2020.; at least 10 GW of operational electricity capacity by 2020; manufacturing sector average growth of 8.5% this year; agriculture average annual growth rate of 6.9% over the plan period (2017-2020) and self-sufficiency in major food items, including rice”, he explained.
Acknowledging that there are some downside risks particularly in the area of insecurity across the country, the Minister said efforts are being made to mitigate them, pointing out that the ultimate goal is to build a country where we grow what we eat, consume what we make and produce what we use.
He noted also that the problem of Nigeria has never been the availability of good development plans but the challenge has always been that of effective implementation of the plan provisions, which is why emphasis of the ERGP has been on implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
To drive fast results in the implementation of the ERGP, an implementation Unit has been set up in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to closely monitor the implementation of critical initiatives, periodically evaluate implementation progress against set targets and milestones, provide early warning signals of potential risks and work closely with the MDAs to articulate actionable measures to be taken against any identifiable constraints.
As part of the initiatives to fast-track the achievement of the objectives of the plan, Senator Udoma said the Ministry is organizing focused labs in the critical areas of Agriculture and Transportation, Power and Gas as well as Manufacturing and Processing.
The labs which will commence fully in the next few weeks will bring all the relevant stakeholders (public and private) into weeks of intensive working sessions to brainstorm on practical steps to overcoming identified challenges.
He urged Nigerians to stop putting the country down as lack of self confidence and trust in the country’s capacity to attain great heights can be a limiting factor in the scale of our achievements.
“Nigerians should develop confidence in our ability to take on challenges and the capacity to achieve positive results. This country has great potentials, both material and human, but we need to harness these potentials for the growth of the country and the benefit of our people”, he said.
While conceding that past failures may be responsible for our cynicism, he called on Nigerians to take an objective view of the achievements of this Administration so as to see that they are indeed quite substantial, and, importantly, that they show sincerity and a genuine understanding of the measures that are necessary to solve Nigeria’s economic problems in a sustainable and fundamental way.
Speaking in the same vein, the Senior Pastor of the Kings Court Parish of the RCCG, Pastor Ben Akabueze, said he was very expectant of 2018 as all indicators are that it will be a better year than 2017.
Pastor Akabueze, who is also the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, said the Kings Court has been organizing such forums annually because the church has a duty to get the people to understand the marketplace and to approach the market with understanding and wisdom.