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This is the time for consistency, not change

2015-01-27 18:17
Ngozika Ajuluchukwu Comments: 15 Article views: 0
My thoughts on moving forward. Let me first of all say some of the major achievements of this administration. I think, generally, when you look at this administration, there are a lot of things it hasn't done. But no government does everything in four years.

So that’s not news, but there are so many things this administration has done that have never been done in this country, in the history of this country. So we have moved forward in many – many areas. And I can give you in different sectors whether you’re talking about job creation, you are talking about micro, small and medium enterprises or you are talking about diversifying the economy, you’re talking about industrialisation, you are talking about trade, you're talking about attracting investment into the country.

It is the first time in the history of this country that Nigeria appear on the list of UNTAD as the number one destination for investment in Africa for two years consecutively in the last three years. Despite what you hear, it has never happened. We have mobilised more than 99 billion investment into the economy in terms of pipeline investment. We never had an industrial plan for this country.

Every government talks about economic diversification, no government did anything about it. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria where we have a comprehensive plan to diversify the economy under the Industrial Revolution Plan and today I can tell you the thirteen items that will replace oil going forward. When you look at the SME sector, nobody cared about the youth, the traders on the streets, actually the people who drive this economy.

Only 8% of them got loans through the government. No business support services for them, no infrastructural development for them, nothing was done for them. This is the administration for the first time in the history of this country that will have an SME council, chaired by the Vice President and that will address all these issues. Let me talk about three things that I think are fundamental because these three issues have been raised in the election and Nigerians need to know. The first one is about job creation which is important to every Nigerian and should influence the way Nigerians vote.

If you look at... in the last, at least five or six years, the unemployment rate has been always, always over 20%. No government took deliberate steps to address this. This government under the leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has done quite a lot of ground breaking, game changing things in this sector, and I’ll give you some examples. For the first time in the history of this country, we have a job board chaired by the Vice President, with all the sectors that actually employ a lot of people as members of that.

The second thing which has been done is the fact that we now have a way of measuring jobs created in the country, no government ever had... I can tell you confidently today that this government in a year created 1.3 million jobs, according to NBS. Now if you look at other statistics maybe it’s outside 2.8 but let’s go with the NBS numbers. I can tell you that it created 1.3 million jobs. And I can tell you where these jobs are being created. For the first time in the history of this country, we have activated the Job Centres in all the states of the federation.

That was activated about a week ago or two ago. We’re going to have them in 774 local governments. Now, we are also doing Job Exchange. It is a system where the youth can go into a system, those looking for jobs can look at the skills and match it with the requirements and get that done. Again for the first time in the history of this country we have embarked upon a Skills Gap Assessment because everywhere you go there are jobs but there are no skills. Our universities are not producing enough graduates for the economy. We have partnered with UNIDO and this is what advanced countries have done. It will tell us in each sector what the requirements are, the gaps there and the skills gap.

This will inform the universities, the polytechnics, and will also inform the ITF training institutes to train people and make sure that those gaps are filled. So for example, if you look at Brazil, you look at the gaps today when you look at where investments are going. I talked about attracting 59 billion investment. We have policies on Sugar, we have policies on Auto we will need auto engineers.

Dangote is investing about 9 billion dollars in an Integrated Petrochemical plant. We need petrochemical engineers at least 5000 of them in the next 3 years. So you need to plan ahead. We never had that way of doing that in the country. For the first time in the history of this country, we now have that. The number of people that are idle according to NBS that percentage is down by 40%, so everything is on the right and this Job Board has a target to create a minimum of 2 million jobs a year for the next 10 years. Now when you do that the percentage becomes if you create less than 2 million jobs a year, I hear different people saying we'll create 1 million jobs a year.

That will do nothing. Because at least 1.8 million people come unto the job market every year. You need to create more than so the work has started, a lot of progress has been made. You need to consolidate. This is not the time for change. And again, when we talk about SMEs, for example, according to the last statistics we have about 17.25 million MSMEs employing 32 million people. This sector had never been looked at as a sector. And because of that, most of the youth, most of the unemployed, most of our traders, most of our micro business men and women had no support at all from federal government, from any state government. Therefore, if you look at the statistics, only 8% of them access funding from institutions, from banks and all that.

Most of them got their funds from family, from friends and all that. And that is why the average age is about 32 years if we look at the micro, small and medium enterprises have to use their savings. Again for the first time in the history of this country we have come up with a programme called the National Enterprise Development Programme. Amongst that, the number of things we need to do, which we have done started doing. One is to create the MSME Council which brings together everyone that is involved, we treat that as a sector, and is chaired by the Vice President. The second thing is we have identified the eight barriers to growth and we are addressing each one of them.

So for example, access to finance: the 220 billion which CBN has just announced is part of that solution. The council is making sure that, that 220 billion reaches the Micro finance institutions. There was no way... also which the micro businesses and small businesses you will see in the next two months or there about you've seen different states, Oyo state, different states announcing, making money available to these micro this was not possible before. If you see how many people have been empowered.

In each state under the programme, SMEDAN has set up about 55,000 cooperatives each from each local government. That is about 845,000 members. Each one of this will have access to funds and will have access to business support services. There is a programme for the Youth Corpers also. Everything is on board again to support the job creation, but also to help grow the micro, small and business enterprises. Today everyone is talking about oil price as if it should be news story. It should not be a new story to anyone.

We knew for decades that we were relying on one commodity. We knew for decades that we are just exporting raw material and importing finished products; we knew for decades that we are just exporting jobs outside this country by exporting crude oil. We knew that we were not supporting or doing anything about it. This is a government that for the first time in the history of this country has a plan called the National Industrial Revolution Plan which is to diversify the economy and revenue sources. And is not just having a plan, which is integrated, which is holistic, which is comprehensive, its that we have started implementing it.

So when you hear about the Sugar Policy today we were importing 97% of the sugar we consume as a nation. Today we have $3 billion going into sugarcane to sugar. By the time they finish in the next 3 to 4 years, at least 180,000 jobs will be created in this country and most of them will be in states like Kebbi, Kogi, Adamawa, Niger State. There's six of them in northern states of the Federation. I have gone to inspect the one in Niger.

Niger state done by Flour Mills, by the end of this year they will start producing in the country. It is because of that we have the Auto Policy, where for the first time in the history of this country we have firms like Nissan assembling in this country, Hyundai assembling in this country, Ford was here last week, Toyota is doing their due diligence, Peugeot, Volkswagen have left this country, they are all back in this country, producing in this country. And the beauty of the Auto Industry which is one of the highest employer of labour anywhere in the world, is that there are at least 2000 parts in a car, most of those parts will be produced by local SMEs.

So that there will be jobs for our graduates. And we will encourage them to do that. We're doing matching matching them with other JV partners of these individuals. It is under this policy that we have the Cement Policy which we were producing about 16 million metric tons in the country. Today, we have the capacity to produce 39.5 million metric tons. Today Nigeria has become a net exporter of Cement in ECOWAS across Africa. It is under this policy also that we have the Cotton, Textile and Garment Policy which is also new. We have in the past focused on Cotton and Textile. You may recall that, that sector was second highest employer of labour in this country before but today we're extending it, not just to textile, but to garments, and to fashion design, tailoring and all that.

That policy, fully well implemented, in three years will create about 1.7 million jobs. If you look at it from cotton to fashion. It is under that policy today, that we have managed to attract about $14 billion into the Petrochemical petroleum product sector. So for example, if the 9 billion that has been committed to an integrated petrochemical plant is implemented to the letter, by 2018, for the first time in the history of this country, we will no longer import petroleum products. We will actually become a net exporter of petroleum products and most people that are investing in fertiliser, urea, see this as not just for local consumption, but for exports. And we're not just talking about sectors, we are looking at enablers – putting the infrastructure in place, the financing in place, the standard in place, the investment climate in place, the power, everything is being addressed.

So it is the first time we are doing this. If we do that, Mexico diversified its economy in seven years. Most take some ten years. Lee Kwan Yu converted Singapore economy from a third world economy to a first economy. He was there for 30 years. Mexico did it in 7 years, we have only done it maybe in two to three years. We need to consolidate and finish it. You cannot move one step forward, three steps backward. When you talk about industrialisation, there are a number of enablers that are critical for the success of industrialisation and the success of diversifying your economy which is a must for us. You need to have industrial skills otherwise you won’t produce things up to standard.

You need to have the quality and standard infrastructure, you need to have access to affordable finance, you need to have the right investment climate, you need to have... you need to link innovation technology to industries. These are all the areas that NRP addresses. You need to have the right infrastructure, meaning move the goods from farm to industry, from industry to market; and you need to have electricity-power. All those things are important. That is why the president in implementing the Industrial Revolution Plan, set up the Presidential Advisory Council on Industrialisation and the three key Ministers in that council are the Minister of Works, Minister of Transport, Minister of Power, to let you know how important infrastructure is. And the arrangement we have with power for our industries, is that we are focusing more now on industrial zones and industrial parts.

We have studied what other countries have done. The whole idea of saying Free Trade Zone for export, that’s not it. Yes! We have the market here in this country. In ECOWAS, 300 million people. That’s where investment is coming towards the country. So we are focusing more on industrial zones, industrial parts. That will make it easier for three things to happen. It will make it easier for power, Ministry of power to direct electricity to these parts 22-7. I have that assurance already. It will make it easier for us to have captive power in these zones,k industrial zones. Already we’ve started implementing that. So we are looking at different systems not just relying on gas, we are looking at coal to power which China has done successfully. We are looking at LPG.

I met with investors here yesterday that are prepared ready to move gas from the South, South West to the North to supply power station in Kaduna and Kano. I've told them to extend it to Kano because of the textile industries. So we are looking at all those options. So before long, three-four years, all these will be resolved. If you look at all the level of investment coming into power, its more than 50 billion. It takes 3 years that is why you haven't seen the impact. But already investors are taking advantage of the new policy of the government. Now if you also look at what we are doing in terms of incentives, those who are able to actually generate their power for example, so we look at the WINCOs, the DANGOTEs, all of them have their own power plants. We have incentivised it. We have tax incentives for them which make it economic for them to invest in power.

Those are the things we need to put in place which we have put in place. It is not a barrier. By the way an investor takes a long term view, not a short term view. They know these issues are being addressed, will be resolved in the next two to three years. And they know that this is where the money is. If you look at return on investment, Nigeria was ranked number four in the world. That’s because the money is here, the market is here, the money is here and we just need to have consistency in applying our policies. That is why continuity is so important especially at this time.
- MyNews24
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