By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday lamented that a significant proportion of Nigeria’s prosperity is concentrated in the hands of a few people living in four or five States and the Federal Capital Territory.
The President stated this while declaring open the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit with theme “Nigeria 2050: Shifting gears”, in Abuja.
This year’s economic summit focuses on what Nigeria would be in the year 2050 when many studies estimate that the population will rise to over 400 million people.
According to the President, while only five states have most of the wealthy people, the remaining 31 states have about 150 million people waiting for better opportunities to thrive.
President Buhari pointed out that a prosperous society is one where majority of its citizens have an acceptable standard of living and a decent quality of life.
He said his administration understood the need for Nigerians to have a better lifestyle adding that this was why measures have been put in place to reduce the level of unemployment and poverty.
“Today, many mistake prosperity with wealth. They are not necessarily the same. Experts and analysts explain economic trends by making references to indicators of wealth.
“Wealth, however, in its simplistic form, is money or other assets. In recent years, global events have shown that when a society and its leaders are driven and motivated by these alone, the ultimate outcome is a divided state of severe inequalities.
“But a prosperous society is one where majority of its citizens have an acceptable standard of living and a decent quality of life,’’ he said.
In order to address population growth, insecurity and corrupt practices in developing economies, there is need for policies and programmes that would focus on promoting inclusiveness.
He explained that his administration’s economic policies in the last four years had focused on the need to uplift the people out of poverty.
The President said the government would continue to come up with policies that would focus on delivering prosperity to all Nigerians through enhancing security; eliminating corrupt practices in public service; supporting sectors that will create jobs, and promoting socially-focused interventions to support the poorest and most vulnerable.
“Nigeria is a country with close to 200 million people living in 36 states and the FCT. A significant proportion of Nigeria’s prosperity today is concentrated in the hands of a few people living primarily in 4 or 5 States and the FCT. Some of the most prosperous Nigerians are here in this room.
“This leaves the remaining 31 States with close to 150 million people in a state of expectancy and hope for better opportunity to thrive. “This, in the most basic form, drives the migratory and security trends we are seeing today both in Nigeria and across the region,” he added.
Speaking on the focus of the summit, he said that his administration would equip the people with the means to seize any opportunities that may arise in the future.
He said the government would continue to investment in education, health care, infrastructure, security and strengthen and entrench the rule of law.
In her address, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs Zainab Ahmed said there is an urgent need to design policies that will not only address the rising population but ensure paradigm shift to a competitive private sector led economic growth and development.
She said the summit would help to provide strategic and innovative ways of getting the maximum benefits from the expected demographic dividends.
Ahmed noted that the outputs of this Summit will be critical as the government works towards co-creating the Nigeria it envisioned.
He said ther recommendation of the conference would aid government in developing and implementing the next generation of national plans in line with 11 government priority areas.
The priority areas are macroeconomic stability through coordinated economic, monetary, fiscal and trade policies; fighting corruption and improve governance and improve health, education and productivity of Nigerians.
The plan also include ensuring sufficiency in power, and petroleum products; improve transportation and other infrastructure; drive industrialization, focusing on macro, small and medium-sized enterprises; improve security for all citizens and enhance agriculture self-sufficiency to achieve food security.
On the increase in Value Added Tax rate to 7.5 per cent, she said 5this was done as part of the funding options for the minimum wage increase.
She said the administration remains committed to increasing finance for investment health and education, to improve our human capital development indices.
“Our target is also to increase funding for capital expenditure such that this constitutes at least 30 percent of Federal budgeted expenditures. Given these aspirations, the government has been compelled to review our fiscal policies including the proposed VAT rate increase,” she added.
She charged the summit to come up with practical solutions on how government can sustainably finance the future, enablers that should be put in place to mobilize and unlock private sector capital, and the role that sub-national governments should play given the potentially huge fiscal space.
The Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group Asue Ighodalo said that despite rising poverty rates, the population growth continues at a trajectory that should be cause for concern and decisive policy measures.
He said, “The United Nations projects that Nigeria’s population will double by the Year 2050 to 410 million, and we will become the third most populous nation in the world behind China and India.
“Basically, the population is projected to grow by a little over three per cent per annum. If true, and it does not seem unrealistic, GDP must grow by at least that much, year on year, for us to just maintain our current GDP per capita – this is without accounting for inflation.
“Clearly, we do not have that luxury. Our current GDP per capita, even at zero inflation, on its own, and more so when we factor in wealth distribution disparities, is not a metric we can afford to have stand still.”
He said the NESG is convinced that only consistent and inclusive economic growth, underpinned by a competitive, private sector-led, productive economy can move thenation toward real progress.
By 2050, he said majority of the country’s projected 400 million people will be under the age of 35, adding that there is need to confront the realities and craft a new national agenda that will proactively and urgently drive inclusive double-digit growth over the next three decades.
“It sounds daunting, but it is not impossible. It has been done before; by others in situations similar to ours, but never by accident.
“The kind of economy we require, that will earn us a seat at the table with regional and global giants, must be both deliberate and audacious. If we plan just to survive or maintain our current trajectory, we will have sacrificed the futures of a large number of the world’s future inhabitants,” he added.