PRESS RELEASE–/Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed has said the 2019 general elections will not hamper on its Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) target of 2020, saying the Federal Government is committed and focused on delivering on the set goals.
The Minister, stated this on Tuesday, while speaking as a panelist on the sustainable economic opportunities for Nigeria at the ongoing 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja.
She said the federal government is aware of the sense of urgency and the need for consistency for a sustainable growth of the economy and that Mr President has asked them to keep their eyes on the ball and focus on delivering on the ERGP.
According to the Minister, “For the past four weeks or so, we have been talking to investors and we are sending out a message that the president has asked some of us to just keep our eyes on the ball to focus on delivering on ERGP and the goals that are set.
“He has said we should not allow ourselves to be distracted by the elections. So they are few of us that are simply working towards 2020 which is the life of the ERGP, and also very soon we are going to start developing.”
She added that elections are going to cause some distractions but as long as we keep focus in what we have planned, we would be fine. We are sure that the President will pass through the 2019 elections and continue as president, so our focus is on 2020 not 2019.
Speaking further on a sustained economic opportunities, the minister noted the country will harness the potentials of its large energetic youth population and their entrepreneurial zest.
She said government is also partnering sector and helping small scale businesses access finance, creating the enabling environment, improving on infrastructure and make cost of transportation reasonable low.
She said, “We have a situation where there is an economy that is beginning to go back to the path of growth but it is also exposed to a lot of fragility.
“Any external shocks will affect us significantly. We also have this growing unemployment that is really a threat to all of us. We have on the other hand a very large population of youths that are very active and very entrepreneurial. So that in itself is a very huge advantage to me because I think even though, we are a country that is resourceful but most important resources that we have is actually our people and our energetic youths.
“And what we have to do as policy makers first is to find out how we can engage the youths to be productive in the society to add their contribution and also to help them into deciding what thing they should be involved in.
“The youths for me hold the key to the future to be able to raise Nigeria from where it is so that we can become another good example that maybe in the years to come we can be sited along side Indonesia, China and Malaysia.
“What we are doing now is significant but it’s not enough, we need to do a lot more. The people that are in government don’t have all of the expertise that is required to really pull our country and make that quantum stride which is required.
“So we have to engage more with the private sector. We are doing a lot of engagement, but we have to enable small scale businesses to access finance, we have to provide basic infrastructure, especially power for businesses whether it’s a barber or hair saloon or a small restaurant or cafeteria or a tailor to be able to do their business without having to run their generator or ramping up their cost.
“We have to make sure that transportation cost is reasonably low and also that it is effective and available. These reduces the cost of doing business. These small businesses is what will make the difference in this country. A one man business that will end up employing one or two or few other persons. That is the solution that the government or even the formal private sector cannot employ the 40% unemployment persons that we have right now.
“So I see this economic summit as an opportunity for us to lead a frank discussions on the things that we are doing right, but how we can round them up so that it is felt. The national social investment programme is well designed but we today covered maybe 9.2 million people including about 8.7 million children that are being fed. But if you take out the children that are being fed, the number of people that have been enabled to be employed is still under 2 million, so that is still not enough.
“We hope to be able to expand that programme and there is no reason why we cannot be partnering with private sector even in running this social investment programme. We have found out that there is a need to enable as many people as possible to be involved in the financial sector just helping people to open bank accounts. So whatever it is that they need passes through the financial system. Then it enables them to save and then it enables them to access more finance.”