By UDEME CLEMENT
Benedict Ukpong, Assistant Director, Federal Capital Development Authority, Abuja, speaks, in this interview, on the need for government to carefully examine SWF and the economic benefits it would bring in the long-run, if adequately utilised.
Barely three months after SWF was endorsed by the Senate, some governors seems not to be supporting the idea anymore, what would you advise government to do?
My position is that any decision government wants to take should bring economic growth and development in the long-run. I would advise government to thoroughly examine SWF to know how it would benefit the country before taking any decision on it.
For instance, the Senate has passed the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority Bill, with an initial investment minimum of the naira equivalent to $1 billion. Now the government needs holistic transformation of the economy for optimum growth in order to realise its Vision 20: 2020 target.
According to the bill already endorsed by both chambers, the future funding for SWF would be derived from remaining funds from the federation account that would be transferred to the authority. This means the three tiers of government should function as a team to develop the economy.
How would you assess the performance of the President so far?
I believe it is still too early to criticise Mr. President. For instance, he has just inaugurated an economic team to work with the Finance Minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
It could be recalled that between 2003 and 2006, when she held the finance portfolio, she was able to secure debt relief for Nigeria . So, the president is starting very well and he needs the support of all Nigerians to deliver.
Unemployment seems to be a major problem in Nigeria , especially among the youths, what would you advise government to do in the area of youth empowerment?
Youth empowerment must be given serious thought, because it is very important for economic growth and development. I am appealing to the President and Dr. Godswill Akpabio, governor of Akwa Ibom State, to involve the youths in every project embarked upon by government.
Doing so, would pave the way for job creation for the youths and other citizens. Government should realise that creation of jobs is the fastest way to economic recovery. Also, engaging the youths meaningfully would help government tackle unemployment that is prevalent in the system.
Aside from office work, government should empower the citizens in area of oil and gas, agriculture as well as accessibility to credit facility for small and medium enterprises SMEs, for some Nigerians to be self-employed.
Infrastructure development is said to be a major problem in Nigeria. What is your comment on this?
The President is trying to revamp the power sector. That is a good idea. He should intensify effort to turn round the power sector to provide constant electricity supply for businesses to thrive.
This is an important aspect of infrastructure development. The moment he provides constant power supply, everything would take shape in the economy.