By Joseph INOKOTONG
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Tuesday, inaugurated the Core Working Groups of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Focus Labs with a charge to stakeholders to work collaboratively as one entity focused on getting new investment commitments and assisting investors think through implementation.
While inaugurating the group in Abuja, the Vice President said the Working Group comprising senior public officers from the six pilot Ministries and their agencies, has the rare privilege of contributing to the national assignment by providing sector expertise and working with the ERGP Implementation Unit to successfully plan the three initial labs and address inter-agency bottlenecks investors might bring to the labs.
A statement signed by Akpandem James, Special Adviser (Media) to the Minister said he was particularly excited that the ERGP focus labs is one of those targeted initiatives of the Muhammadu Buhari Administration that drives the three pillars of its medium-term plan – restoring growth, building a competitive economy and investing in our people.
The Vice President said he was also pleased that the implementation of the ERGP less than one year after its launching by the President has resulted in early wins, from the targeted exit from recession in Q2 last of 2017 to improved stability in the fiscal and monetary markets.
“As mentioned by the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning, most of our macro indices are trending upwards but a lot more needs to be done. And this administration will definitely not relent until we bring these headline improvements to visibly impact the majority of our citizenry”, he added.
Prof Osinbajo said as the intent of the focus labs are primarily to drive new investments that create jobs for the people across the 36 states of the federation, all hands must be on deck to get the labs project right.
He explained that the Central Steering Committee comprising nine cabinet ministers in Agriculture, Transport, Solid Minerals; Industry Trade and investment; Power Works and Housing; Petroleum Resources, Finance, Justice and Budget and National Planning are tasked with steering the labs and ensuring active collaboration with the private sector to remove inhibitions that may have impeded some of the priority projects that they want to invest in, but which have remained on the drawing board for a long time.
While commending members of the ERGP Implementation Team and all those who have been working towards the labs, the Vice President reaffirmed the commitment of the President to the labs’ initiative and look forward to joining in the working sessions ahead of the commencement of the labs in March.
Giving a background of the labs concept, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma explained that though significant work has been done on the ERGP Implementation, and in the right direction, more work needs to be done to achieve targets.
Since it is not feasible to rely on the Government to fund required investments on its own due to its ongoing fiscal deficit, he said private investment is therefore key to catalysing growth. “We have therefore chosen to conduct Focus Labs in three selected areas to deliver quick and fast results on investments and job creation”.
The labs, he explained, are intended to achieve two main objectives, namely: new investments for critical projects and resolution of complex inter-agency problems that inhibit private sector investment.
He pointed out that the ERGP Focus Labs are not meant to replace existing sectoral roadmaps and plans, rather it is meant to identify entry projects to act as showcase to bring back investor confidence to Nigeria. The ERGP will focus on mobilising private investment projects to meet the USD 245 billion investments and 15 million job creation targets by 2020, he added.
For the specified sectors, the Minister explained that for Agriculture and Transportation, the lab will look to increase private sector investments in selected crops and products (agro-business) while investment along the transport corridors will target rail, roads and ports. For Manufacturing and Processing, the Lab will look to increase private sector investments in selected manufacturing subsectors and products as well as the processing of selected solid minerals in Nigeria; while in the Power and Gas sector, the Lab will look to increase private sector investments in the power sector i.e. electricity generation across its value chain and energy mix and the gas industries including expansion of domestic market.
Responding after the inauguration, the Minister of Trade Industry and Investment, Dr Okey Enelamah emphasized the need for commitment by all concerned to realize the objective of the project, pointing out that the challenge Nigeria often faces is not crafting good plans, but that id diligent implementation.
He also charged members of the groups to approach the assignment from the perspective of “the right thing, not the right person” as there will be no “high tables, but work tables”.
By Joseph INOKOTONG