Nigeria: Osinbajo charges private sector to join govt to implement ESP

As the Federal Government consolidates efforts designed to ward off a deep recession and effect significant changes in the economy, opportunities abound across different sectors in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) for the private sector to lead the charge for Nigeria’s economic growth and development, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo made the call on Friday at the virtual edition of the Presidential Policy Dialogue of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

The Vice President said the ESP which is now being implemented by the Buhari administration is driven by the desire “to adapt to the challenges and make required changes in order to come out stronger than before”.

According to him, “I take this opportunity to encourage the private sector to be proactive in leading the charge against recession and poverty in our country. The Federal Government is not under any illusion that it can do this on its own. The opportunities that now exist in the short term in agriculture, infrastructural development, housing construction, in renewable energy, digital technology development, mining, financial inclusion, healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing, call for the private sector to take the bull by the horns and make them a reality.

“The priority of the Federal Government in response to the economic challenges caused by COVID-19 is to ward off a deep recession by an admixture of stimulus measures to support local businesses, retain and create jobs and ameliorate the circumstances of the most vulnerable.”

Continuing, the Vice President said though the stimulus package is just about 1.5% of GDP, it is the best the government could do given existing realities in the economy.

He said “government developed the Economic Sustainability Plan with a stimulus package of N2.3trillion to give fillip to the economy across various sectors. The size of this stimulus which is just about 1.5% of national income is not as large as we would have liked it to be but it was the best we could do given existing fiscal and monetary constraints. Based on the assumption of the price of crude averaging out at $30 per barrel throughout the year, we anticipate an economic growth of about -0.59% in 2020.

“You would already be familiar with details of the Economic Sustainability Plan. In essence, it is intended to boost production, prevent business collapse, and provide liquidity. It will also promote the use of labour-intensive methods and direct labour interventions in key areas like agriculture, light manufacturing, housing construction and facility maintenance while increasing infrastructural investment in roads, bridges, solar power, and communications technologies. It is intended to do all this while extending protection to the poor and other vulnerable groups in our society.”

Speaking further on the plan of government to address the disruptions on the economy by the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that the private sector can play, the Vice President said, “these opportunities are the building blocks that will enable our medium-term goals to be achieved and make our long-term goals achievable.”

According to Prof. Osinbajo, “this is a drive we hope to continue into the medium term as we build up the economy over the next few years. We do need foreign direct investment to complement our domestic efforts but it is the success of our own investments that will attract such inflows. Investors are already aware of Nigeria’s huge market and its great potential, but they will only ‘want in’ when government by its own positive interventions and the private sector by its success stories show them what is possible to do here.

“No doubt, the task ahead is challenging. Nevertheless, government is focused on doing its bit so I call on the private sector to play its part and join us in this noble venture. We know that this will be a difficult year but expect that with our combined effort growth will resume to the order of about 3 percent by the end of next year. We can do this working together.”

On the Ease of Doing Business reforms of the Federal Government, the Vice President maintained that the commitment of the Federal Government to providing an enabling environment for business to thrive remains strong.

“In this regard, we have made some strides in improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), a lot has been achieved to fast-track processes, reduce bottlenecks and improve transparency across Government MDAs.

“As a result, we have moved 35 places upward in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. We have continued to scale up our business reform initiatives across regulatory agencies.

“Of course, there is still a lot more to be done. Our aim is to continue to improve our national ranking in the World Bank Doing Business Index Ranking to below 100 in the coming years. It is also very important to reduce the harassment and extortion of businesses by various government agencies,” the Vice President added.

In his remarks, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said the current focus of the Federal Government in the manufacturing sector “is on prioritizing local production especially in the importation of machinery that utilize local materials.”

Earlier, the LCCI President, Mrs Toki Mabogunje commended the Federal Government’s “spirited effort” regarding its managing of the Nigerian economy, adding that members of the chamber and private sector players are willing to collaborate with the Buhari administration.

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