By Cecilia Ologunagba
The Federal Government has so far screened 240 projects for the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) focus laboratories, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, the Minister of Budget and National Planning said today.
Udoma disclosed this at the inauguration of the focus labs by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister said the government was targeting to mobilise at least $25 billion or its Naira equivalent in private investments through the labs.
“Many have asked whether we are not being too ambitious in targeting $25 billion. My answer is that we have no choice.
“We actually need multiples of $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.
“We shall keep on addressing all the constraints to investments until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves,” he said.
According to him, the implementation of the initiative will further drive quick delivery of some of the outcomes of ERGP and contribute to accelerating the growth momentum of the country.
Udoma said the labs, scheduled to run for the next six weeks, would start with setting the agenda on projects capable of impacting on the economy.
The minister said the labs would end with the final syndication and sign offs on the projects capable of impacting the economy and creating jobs for Nigerians.
“The expected deliverables are the identification of projects followed by detailed implementation plans for each project with identified budgets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
“The process has become imperative because government is fully committed to the achievement of the primary objective of the ERGP, which is restoring the strength of the economy.
“We cannot rest until we achieve the ERGP’s vision of a new Nigeria.
“We cannot rest until we see a Nigeria that is transformed from a consuming nation to a producing nation, from an import dependent nation to an export oriented nation.
“A Nigeria from a nation that survives on one single commodity to a nation that runs on multiple engines of growth,” he said.
Udoma said that the government had invited potential and existing local and foreign investors, who may be interested in investing in any of the three focus areas 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.
“The officials, whose support or approvals they may 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.
“The stakeholders from the sectors will think out practical and workable solutions for delivering the kind of results Nigeria needs,” said the minister.
He also said the central objective of the labs would be to bring in private capital to finance projects across the country.
According to him, the aim was to raise the level of productivity in Nigeria, saying “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.
“They will be interfacing to find practical solutions to the issues raised, breakdown silos, ensure alignments and secure commitment for financing and implementation.”
Udoma explained that the labs were workshop-style arrangements with intense open debates and an “all hands-on deck” approach and with a number of syndications to arrive at practical and innovative solutions.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the ERGP is a medium-term plan, 2017-2020, launched by the President in April 2017.
ERGP sets out the direction of government policy for the economy to put it on path of a strong, diversified, inclusive and sustainable growth.