By Modupe Gbadeyanka
National Assembly has been asked to join forces with the executive and ensure that the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP) does not end up as another beautifully bound document meant for the shelves.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Mr Udoma Udo Udoma, while briefing a select joint committee of the National Assembly recently as part of consultations towards packaging a strategic and all inclusive economic policy document, said the need for the plan and its effective implementation was all the more imperative, especially given the current state of the economy.
Recalling that the country has had several beautifully packaged but hardly implemented economic plans in the past, he urged that every effort must be made to ensure that the new plan eventually does not suffer the fate of those before it.
To ensure the NERGP does not go the way of others, he disclosed that Government is putting in place a specially staffed Delivery Unit that will drive implementation of the NERG Plan through effective monitoring and evaluation.
He explained that the plan is structured in such a way that it will be the basis for all subsequent budgets, which is why the contributions and support of the National Assembly is very critical, to ensure the effective realization of the objectives.
The NERGP focuses on five broad areas namely: macroeconomic policy, economic diversification and growth drivers, competitiveness, social inclusion and jobs, and governance and other enablers.
Acknowledging receipt, and confirming consideration of earlier inputs from the National Assembly, the Minister told the members, drawn mainly from the relevant Committees of the two chambers, that “we are here to consult you in a more organized and focused way so as to further enrich the plan with further inputs from you.”
He told them that the plan is national in nature and will require inputs from the National Assembly and the sub-national governments. The time-frame for the plan is 2017 – 2020 and all subsequent annual budgets under the Buhari Administration will be driven by the NERGP.
“This plan builds on the previous development plans the country has developed, particularly the Vision 20-2020. The development of this plan is part of a process we have been working on since we came into government. We started with the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) for the 2016 Budget”, he explained.
The SIP was followed with the development of the Medium Term Sector Strategies (MTSS) for some selected big spending ministries; and subsequently the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). All these documents were developed after extensive consultations with experts and relevant stakeholders.
The Minister told the legislators that regarding the NERGP, consultations already have been held with several stakeholders, including a retreat involving representatives of the private sector, academia, government officials and other stakeholders, which generated very insightful ideas on issues to consider in the plan. “We also held a roundtable with the Honourable Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries of State’s Ministries of Economic Planning and Budget, as well as our Development Partners”.
Explaining the scope of the plan, the Minister said it is a medium-term plan (2017-2020), which is expected to drive Nigeria to a minimum growth rate of 7% within the plan period.
“However, the fact that we are in recession means that the Plan is one that must also be designed to get us quickly out of recession. The NERGP therefore fulfils the dual goal of identifying short-term recovery initiatives to get us quickly out of recession, as well as presenting a medium-term growth plan.
“Our goal is to have an economy with low inflation, stable exchange rates, and a diversified inclusive growth. The proposed initiatives prescribed by the plan address the country’s poor competiveness, and are designed to improve the business environment and attract investment in infrastructure. Jobs and social inclusion are also key deliverables of the plan”, he explained.
In his response, the Chairman of the Session, Senator Gershom Bassey, who is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Upstream, said there is a need to focus on some very strong points of the economy, as trying to address all the economic challenges at once may be counter-productive.
While agreeing that there was need for effective implementation of strategic economic plans, Mr Bassey also emphasized the need for a balance-sheet approach to national development where inputs match outputs.
He suggested the domestication of the oil and gas industry as, according to him, the local content participation in the industry is embarrassingly low.
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