The Minster of Budget & National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has said that Nigeria’s economic outlook for 2018 is looking positive due to the huge potentials available as a result of the various initiatives by government to sustain growth since its exit from recession.
The Minster who spoke at the 2018 Economic Outlook Forum of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Kings Court Parish, in Lagos on Saturday, said the positive sentiment was shared by most international and local rating agencies.
Mr. Udoma said the country’s economy would be significantly better during the year going by the positive trend in key indicators since the country emerged from recession in the second quarter of last year.
The growth, he pointed out, would create opportunities for investment in areas such as agriculture and agro-processing, industry, mining, construction and services.
To continue on the positive trajectory, he emphasised the importance of sustaining the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.
ERGP is a strategic plan by the Federal Government to restore growth of the economy, invest in the Nigerian people, and build a globally competitive economy by 2020.
Part of the plan, Mr. Udoma explained, included tackling constraints to growth, leveraging the power of the private sector, promoting national cohesion and social inclusion, allowing markets to function and uphold the country’s core values.
The main focus of the plan, he pointed out, was to stabilize the macroeconomic environment, achieve agriculture and food security, improve transportation infrastructure, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products and drive industrialization focusing on small and medium enterprises, SMEs.
The Minister was happy that the implementation of the programmes and policies under the ERGP had propelled the country’s economy out of recession and bring it back on the path of sustainable growth.
The latest Gross Domestic Product, GDP Report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, he said showed the economy was making “a gradual but steady gains.”
Apart from the GDP growth rate rising to about 1.40 per cent by the 3rd Quarter of 2017, the NBS said agriculture also grew by 3.06 per cent and Industry by 8.83 per cent within the same period.
Besides, he expressed happiness that confidence also returned to the economy, evidenced by the over 131.3 per cent growth in the value of Capital importation in the 3rd Quarter of 2017 over the amount recorded in the previous Quarter.
Again, foreign reserves, which was on the decline at the inception of the administration in 2015, have now grown from $23.81 billion in September 2016, to $40.4 billion last week.
Besides, he noted the stable foreign exchange rate and the narrowing gap between the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, rate and the parallel market rate, as well as the declining inflation rate from 18.72 per cent in January 2016 to 15.90 per cent by November 2017.
Other positive indices of growth in the economy, the Minister said, included Nigeria moving up 24 places in the most recent World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings from 169th position in 2017 to 145th.
He said Nigeria’s recognition by the World Bank as one of the top ten reforming countries in the world was not only an indication of a positive growth, but also one of the reasons for the optimism in the country’s economic performance in 2018.
“There is so much potential in the country and it is this potential and the results of our initiatives that make the 2018 outlook so positive,” the Minister said.
“We are targeting a GDP growth rate of 3.5% for this year and 7% by 2020; and an inflation rate of 12.54% for 2018 and single digit inflation of 9.9% by 2020.; at least 10 gigawatts, GWs of operational electricity capacity by 2020; manufacturing sector average growth of 8.5% this year; agriculture average annual growth rate of 6.9% over the plan period (2017-2020) and self-sufficiency in major food items, including rice”, he explained.
Assuring that government was ready to lead in the effort to achieve these targets, Mr. Udoma appealed to the private sector to support the various initiatives to realise their objectives.
Although he noted the various risks, particularly in the area of insecurity across the country, the Minister said efforts were being made to mitigate them, to ensure that we build a country where we grow what we eat, consume what we make and produce what we use.
In his speech, the Senior Pastor of the Church, Ben Akabueze, said he was very expectant of 2018 as all indicators were that it would be a better year than 2017.
The pastor, who is also the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, said forum is an annual event of the church to get the people to not only understand the marketplace, but also approach the market with understanding and wisdom.