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Budget Minister emphasises population management in development of the economy

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By Akpandem James, Special Adviser (Media) to the Hon. Minister, Budget and National Planning

 The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has stressed the need for robust population management policies.

Senator Udoma who was speaking at an interactive session at the ongoing Parliamentary Open Week, which kicked off at the National Assembly in Abuja on Monday, told the lawmakers that population management is one of the 60 key programmes set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) as a strategic initiative to ensure that the gains of government economic policies are felt by the citizens.

This was in realization that unless something urgent was done about the country’s rate of population growth, it would be difficult for the people to feel the full impact of the GDP growth; which is why whilst seeking to grow the economy, government is at the same time seeking to manage the rate of population growth.

He disclosed that the Ministry of Budget and National Planning is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to carry out a comprehensive review of the current population policy and would require the support of the National Assembly for effective implementation of the revised policy.

The review would also entail benchmarking initiatives undertaken by other countries with high levels of population.

He pointed out that with an estimated population of 198 million people and a projected growth rate 3.2% per annum, Nigeria’s population will be more than 289 million by 2050 and the fourth largest in the world. Therefore it is imperative that we introduce measures to bring down the growth rate to less than 2%.

He noted that following the implementation of reform initiatives in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the business environment has been reinvigorated and is improving steadily as investor confidence has returned with capital inflows in 2017 doubling that of 2016; and that of first quarter of 2018 growing by 500% in comparison with same quarter in 2017.

Exports, he indicated, grew by 59.5% between 2016 and 2017 while trade balance turned from a deficit of N253.33 billion in the first quarter of 2016 to positive levels beginning from the fourth quarter of the year. “Full year trade balance stood at N4,035.5 billion as against a deficit of N290.1 billion in full year 2016.

The Minister pointed out that while the Exchange Rate gap has been narrowing progressively, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been growing steadily; and positive results are being recorded in all key sectors except Services which, he explained, is usually the last to recover from a period of recession. Inflation has declined from 18.55% in December 2016 to 11.61% in May 2018, which is below the ERGP target of 12.42 for 2018, he added.

He also mentioned the Focus Labs held between the first and second quarters of 2018 to help drive private sector investment into the economy. The first phase of the project which ended in April 2018 identified over USD 22.5 billion worth of private sector investment that could be unlocked, with USD10.9 billion categorized as “most ready” to go; including several other quick wins.

He indicated that cumulative investments from the first phase of the labs could reach up to USD39.2 billion by 2025 and Ministerial Delivery Units have been set up in the Ministries to work closely with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning in the implementation of the labs outcome.

The Minister also pointed to other ongoing initiatives in the Agriculture, Mining, Health, Transport, and Power sectors with ongoing work to ensure that the power sector is viable and can deliver to meet the country’s demand. This is in addition to the setting up of Special Economic Zones across the six geo-political zones of the country, the Infrastructure Fund and other investment promotion initiatives.

He emphasized that the cooperation of the National Assembly in all these efforts was imperative as it would not just drive the initiatives faster but make realization of the goals quicker.

The Minister pointed out that whilst there has always been consultation between the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the relevant committees of the National Assembly on issues relating to finance, appropriation and planning, there might be a need to institutionalize these consultations by setting up formal structures, and involving all committees of the National Assembly and all the MDAs.

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