Opening Of The 27th Nigerian Economic Summit Themed – “Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency Of Now” On 25/10/2021
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, GCFR, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE OPENING OF THE 27TH NIGERIAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT ON THE 25TH OF OCTOBER, 2021
I am pleased to be with you today at this 27th Nigerian Economic Summit. Let me join in welcoming my brother, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, His Excellency, HalleMariam Dessalegn Boshe, thank you for such an insightful and highly informative speech.
This Annual Summit is a testimony to the joint commitment of government and the private sector to the rapid and value-driven development of Nigeria. I commend the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) for sustaining this partnership and dialogue over the past 27 years. The outcomes of past Summits have contributed positively to an improved policy environment and better governance over the years.
This particular gathering is an important one because it gives us a good opportunity to review developments in the economy since the last Summit which took place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic; to share perspectives on ongoing actions to re-position the economy and to make recommendations for the future so that Nigerians and their businesses can thrive and prosper.
The theme for this year’s Summit – “Securing Our Future: The Fierce Urgency of Now” is a compelling one. It stresses the importance of taking timely action to tackle existing problems while at the same time urging that we take immediate steps to cope with or benefit from domestic and global trends in order to achieve our desired national goals and objectives.
To start with, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on our economic and social life with far-reaching implications for our national development aspirations. The socio-economic impact of this health shock was of such a magnitude that could have set our progress back by a generation with severe implications for security and national wellbeing. In the second quarter of 2020, the economy fell by -6.1% and the drop of activities in sectors like transportation, hospitality and construction was in the order of magnitude of over – 40%.
The shock caused by the pandemic (which is still very much with us) was at a time that Nigeria as a developing economy is striving to become a digital economy so that we can leapfrog into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As if this is not a challenge enough, we are also required as a good member of the international community to take steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is no simple matter if we bear in mind that we are reliant on oil and gas for revenues and export earnings and yet reducing the use of fossil fuels is the frontline strategy being urged for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The need for urgent action is even more pressing if we take account of the fact that we are now part of the African Continental Free Trade Area which calls for actions to position the economy to benefit from the opportunity that this regional integration grouping presents while at the same time protecting our industries and businesses from unfair competition.
Nigeria is projected to have the third-highest population in the world by 2050. Our increasing food, energy, infrastructure, health and education needs would require fast growth yet unlike growth in the now developed economies. These needs will have to be met in a sustainable manner which remains to all intents and purposes, an unknown path. Given these developments and circumstances, it is clear then that we have to act urgently on several fronts if we are to attain our national objectives and secure the future of our nation.
The Federal Government is responding to the challenges and opportunities of the moment by articulating forward-looking policies and strategies and implementing a coherent, clear and consistent set of actions in order to achieve our desired objectives.
The Economic Sustainability Plan adopted in response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic was centred on tackling and reducing the COVID-19 caseload, restoring growth, protecting and creating jobs, rescuing businesses and reducing social vulnerabilities. These were in addition to the priority actions that were already being taken in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to invest in social and human capital, build power, road and rail infrastructure and improve the business environment.
The results are beginning to show although we must admit that there is still much more work to be done especially in the context of our stated priorities to reduce poverty and unemployment which call for urgency.
For instance, the gross domestic product grew by 5.01% in the second quarter of this year as compared to a decline of -6.1% in the second quarter of 2021. Inflation is also trending down and has fallen over the past few months from a peak of 18.17% in March this year to 16.63% in September 2021.
We were also able through the MSME Survival Fund to support up to 1.1million establishments and individuals. Particularly notable in this regard was the payroll support scheme wherein the Government was able to pay salaries to nearly 500,000 employees of MSMEs over a three-month period so that they could remain at work. Given the critical foreign exchange needs of the economy, we are also providing support to exporters through the Export Expansion Facility Programme and disbursement is ongoing to beneficiaries of the scheme.
Labour intensive interventions in agriculture, housing and solar power installations which are still ongoing will also boost domestic demand, especially for local products. As the housing programme takes off, we are seeing not only a large number of jobs at the technical and vocational level but also a boom in building materials produced locally such as cement, ceramics, doors, windows, locks, tiles, pipes and paint amongst other things.
The Solar Power Naija Project is another project of the Economic Sustainability Plan that will lead to the creation of a large number of jobs. We expect up to 250,000 jobs to be created from this effort to connect up to 5 million households to solar power.
This project is particularly important in the context of climate change and in enabling Nigeria to generate renewable electric power against the background of its nationally determined contribution towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
We can all bear witness to the giant strides that are being made in infrastructure across the country. Rail services are already up and running from Abuja to Kaduna; Warri to Itakpe; and Lagos to Ibadan being the most notable.
A similar investment is going on in major roads and bridges like the Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kano, Second Niger Bridge, and East-West Road amongst others. The Road Infrastructure Tax Credit scheme holds great potential as the work done on the Apapa-Oworonshoki Road has demonstrated. We expect more and more private firms to key into this initiative which showcases how public-private partnerships can work if we are innovative.
Government realizes of course that the private sector has always called for a predictable and business-friendly operating environment in which the rules are clearly stated and regulation is used to enable businesses to grow rather than stifling their efforts. This is why we place a lot of emphasis on the Ease of Doing Business initiative in which we have made appreciable progress despite the odds.
Key to this, of course, is a public sector that is responsive, efficient, innovative and forward-looking. This is why the Civil Service Transformation Plan 2021-2025 has been developed to build on the work that started in this area four years ago.
Its objectives in addition to bringing about an ethical change in the public service, include assiduous training programmes, digitalisation, better performance management and improved welfare. For the early fruits of the effort, the office of the Head of Service will be fully digitized by the end of the year.
Although essentially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Economic Sustainability Plan also served as a bridge between the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and the new medium-term National Development Plan. This new Plan is nearing finalisation and was developed through an inclusive process that brought together a broad range of actors and stakeholders from across all sectors of society.
I understand that the private sector including the Nigerian Economic Summit Group made substantial contributions and inputs into the draft Plan which is to be adopted by Government in the next few weeks and I wish to thank you for your contributions.
The broad objectives of the new Plan are to diversify the economy, invest in critical infrastructure, build human capital and improve governance and security. The intention is to achieve broad-based and inclusive GDP growth in order to create 21million jobs and lift 35million people out of poverty by 2025. This ambitious but realizable target is consistent with government’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in a decade.
And this is crucial, growth figures are meaningless if they do not translate to good-paying jobs, and improved standard of living for our people. The question, of course, I insist, must be answered, regarding all our policies, it is what they mean for the creation of wealth and human capacity development.
The new Plan incorporates aspects of the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy which was articulated as a guide towards achieving our poverty reduction target. The starting point for the implementation of the Strategy is the realisation that increased employment is an indispensable tool for reducing poverty. It is for this reason also that labour-intensive sector like manufacturing is also receiving priority attention.
The evidence from other emerging economies is that labour-intensive manufacturers like food products, textiles and garments, leather, wood and furniture products, toys, baggage, etc., are responsible for creating a large number of jobs and can generate significant exports.
In Bangladesh for example, there are an estimated 4million workers employed in the garment sector across 5,000 factories and pre-COVID exports reached over $30billion. Nigeria can reach this number in short order with focused policies to support the manufacturing sector.
The digital economy is another area with great potential and we are working on several initiatives to boost Business Process Outsourcing which can generate a large number of jobs while also contributing to substantial export earnings.
The Federal Government continues to work well with State Governments under the auspices of the National Economic Council but also through their direct involvement in various initiatives such as those in the Economic Sustainability Plan, articulation of the new National Development Plan, and implementation of the Social Investment Programme, the National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Clinics, and of course, of the development of human capital.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me say in conclusion that the Federal Government sets great store by the outcomes of the annual National Economic Summit and I personally look forward to receiving the recommendations which will no doubt contribute to ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for Nigerians.
I am now pleased to declare open the 27th Nigerian Economic Summit.
Thank you very much and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.