By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday formally launched the Focus Labs for the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), with a target of raising local production of fertiliser by one million metric tonnes this year.
The ERGP is the Buhari administration’s flagship economic agenda, with the key goals of achieving sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth, becoming self-sufficient in basic commodities to curtail food imports; diversifying our economic base from crude oil dependence; empowering local businesses to create thousands of jobs; and improving the general wellbeing of our people.
In his remarks at the launch at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, Buhari said: “We plan to build upon the success of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to double the 500,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser delivered to states, agro-dealers and farmers in 2017, by achieving production output of one million metric tonnes in 2018.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, who provided additional information on the matter, said: “We are targeting to mobilise at least $25 billion or its equivalent in naira, in private investments and about 240 projects have so far been screened for 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 multiplies 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, we will hold more labs and we shall keep on addressing all constraints to investments, until we achieve the goals we have set for ourselves,” he said.
Buhari noted that economic growth returned in second quarter of 2017 due to a clear follow-through of some economic initiatives, thus consolidating on the recovery path and reaching a Real GDP growth of 1.92% by the fourth quarter of 2017.
The President explained that Focus Labs have been successfully used in other countries, and that in Nigeria they are designed as closed-door investment platforms to identify and accelerate high-impact projects with significant impact on GDP and jobs.
The Labs will also enable pre-screened private sector investors to have access to senior government officials, regulators, and cabinet ministers. The goal is to efficiently and effectively resolve the most pressing bottlenecks delaying their proposed investments.
The President said that he had directed the relevant ministers and heads of agencies to be available to the participants at the labs to respond to their inquiries and issues.
He further noted that “we have also restored stability in foreign exchange market and have recorded improvements in our foreign reserves which have grown from $24 billion in September 2016 to $42 billion by mid-February 2018 and now $46 billion”, largely as a result of the recovery of oil prices on the international market.