By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, says the successful execution of the Focus Labs by President Muhammadu Buhari will further drive quick delivery of some of the outcomes in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and contribute to accelerating the growth momentum of the country.
The minister spoke at the formal launch of the ERGP Focus Labs on Tuesday, in Abuja.
He said the labs’ process has become imperative because government is fully committed to the achievement of the primary objective of the ERGP, which is restoring the health of the Nigerian economy.
“We cannot rest until we achieve the ERGP’s vision of a new Nigeria. A Nigeria that is transformed from a consuming nation to a producing nation, from an import dependent nation to an export oriented nation, from a nation that survives on one single commodity to a nation that runs on multiple engines of growth”, he said.
“As the President has said, the ERGP is this Administration’s blueprint aimed at building a new Nigeria where we grow what we eat, consume what we make, and produce what we use,” he added.
The Minister said the expected benefits from the Focus Labs explains the necessity of the labs, which requires another step in ensuring the faster implementation of the ERGP.
“We are gathered here for the President to launch an important implementation initiative of the ERGP, the ERGP Focus Labs. Successful execution of the Focus Labs will further drive quick delivery of some of the outcomes in the ERGP and contribute to accelerating the growth momentum of the country.”
Giving an insight into the labs, Sen. Udoma said “we have invited potential and existing investors, both foreign and Nigerian, who may be interested in investing in any of the three areas we are focusing on, to attend the closed-door sessions.” The three sectors are: Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas.
“At the sessions they will have access in one location, to all the officials of government, including officials of state governments, whose support, or approvals, they might need to enable them to commit to an investment decision. In short, the focus labs will involve stakeholders from the public and private sectors working together in a single environment to think out practical and workable solutions for delivering the kind of results Nigeria needs”. He explained.
The Minister explained further that the central objective of the labs will be to bring in private capital to finance projects across the country.
“Our aim is, simply put, to raise the level of productivity in Nigeria. We want more things to be grown in Nigeria. We want more things to be processed and manufactured in Nigeria. We want more jobs to be created in Nigeria. That is what the focus labs are all about.
“We will be having various economic agents (public and private) including industry leaders, subject matter experts, domestic and international funding agencies etc. interfacing in the labs to find practical solutions to the issues raised, breakdown silos, ensure alignments and secure commitment for financing and implementation.
“The Labs are workshop-style arrangements with intense open debates and an “all hands-on deck” approach and with a number of syndications to arrive at radical, practical and innovative solutions.
“The initial labs will be conducted in three areas, namely, Agriculture and Transportation, Manufacturing and Processing, and Power and Gas. These are reflective of the execution priorities of the ERGP. The objective is to achieve new investments for critical projects and to resolve inter-agency problems that may inhibit, or slow down, private sector investments in the selected sectors.”
The minister further explain that Government is targeting to mobilize at least US$25 billion or its Naira equivalent in private investments, adding that about 240 projects have so far been screened for the labs.
On the target, the Minister said: “Many have asked whether we are not being too ambitious in targeting US$25 billion. My answer is that we have no choice. We actually need multiples of US$25 billion, or its equivalent in Naira, of new investments to create enough jobs to address the high unemployment rate in the country. So, we will not stop after the first set of labs. After this first set of labs, we will hold more labs and more labs, and more labs, and we shall keep on addressing all the constraints to investment until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.’’