United Nations General Assembly High-Level Forum On Jobs And Social Protection

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The provision of good-paying jobs for all who are ready and willing to work is the ideal objective of economic and social policy. This will mean that most people and families in society can live above poverty, and will be able to afford food, education, healthcare, and decent shelter.

This ideal is of course not often possible, especially in economically weaker countries where extreme poverty is almost always the norm leading to low human capacity development and inter-generational poverty. This reality, in such countries, has been worsened by the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social protection schemes are therefore crucial, they can break the cycle of poverty, give real access to jobs and economic opportunities, and improve human capacity and productivity. This explains Nigeria’s experiences and policy reaction.

As in other parts of the world, lockdowns, business, and supply chain disruptions, occasioned by the pandemic caused a recession and led to business closures, loss of jobs, and increasing poverty.

Given Nigeria’s demographic and poverty profile, the socio-economic crisis impacted particularly the young and other vulnerable groups in society. The Nigerian Government responded through the Economic Sustainability Plan aimed at restoring growth by mitigating the macroeconomic shocks, tackling the health challenge, averting business closures, protecting and creating jobs, protecting the poor and vulnerable while repositioning the economy for future resilience.

In addition to scaling up health interventions, the Plan contained labor-intensive interventions in agriculture, housing, and public works programmes and the provision of solar energy to 5million homes.

The ESP also had a Survival Fund which gave payroll support to small businesses in manufacturing and services as well as to artisans and transporters. As a result of our interventions, we have been able to provide finance and offtake opportunities for millions of farmers.

We have also been able to save up to 1 million jobs and prevented the close-down of at least 150,000 small businesses. We are also able to extend support to vulnerable groups by deepening our existing social intervention programmes and developing a Rapid Response Register for cash transfers to the urban poor. Economic growth has since resumed after a very short recession. GDP growth in the last quarter was 5%.

Poor financial resources remain a constraint. While we acknowledge the importance of the recently approved increase of $650 billion in SDR allocations for improving global liquidity, the situation of several developing countries remains dire with issues of debt sustainability now requiring urgent attention.

We believe also that the already challenging global environment is now being further complicated by lack of access to vaccines as well as by policy moves in developed economies and international financial institutions to defund gas projects. It is quite evident that the whole world remains at risk if any part of the world is left unvaccinated.

While appreciating the efforts of the COVAX initiative and bilateral donations of vaccines, much more is required. We call on countries that have more than ample supplies of vaccines to make them available to developing countries.

It is clear that climate change and environmental damage will harm the prospect of creating jobs in many countries of the world including ours. Yet we know that access to energy is vital for generating the fast growth required to create jobs and to provide the resources for social protection.

For a gas rich country like Nigeria, we have to deploy gas not only for electricity but also to reduce the carbon emissions that result from the use of firewood and coal for cooking.

Nigeria expects in the run-up to COP 26 that the international community will enable the financing needed for natural gas projects as part of a just and measured transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

Thank you all for your kind attention.