"We must communicate to our people where we are now, and that we can no longer assume we are still where we used to be. We are faced with a challenge that no government in the history of Nigeria has ever faced. So, we have to redesign our economic planning and change our thinking."
This was the view of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, today, at the inaugural meeting of the Economic Sustainability Committee composed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in a move to design and respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crashing of oil prices in the global market.
In the last several weeks, oil prices, a critical driver of the Nigerian economy, have crashed from the budget benchmark of $57 per barrel to less than $20 amidst the other worsening implications of the pandemic with forecasts of impending recession on a global scale.
However, President Buhari set up the committee to amongst other things develop a clear economic sustainability plan from now till 2023, identify fiscal and monetary measures to enhance oil and non-oil revenues in order to fund the plan, develop a stimulus package and come up with other clear-cut measures to create more jobs while keeping existing ones.
While inaugurating the committee, the Vice President noted that "what Mr President has asked us to do is to devise a strategy in order to be able to keep the economy going and also make provisions to ensure that we are able to retain jobs and indeed create more."
"We also need to develop the Nigerian economy in a way that we will even take advantage of the challenges of these times and convert those challenges to opportunities," Mr Osinbajo added.
Speaking on the focus of the committee and what would be done to salvage the situation in the country, the vice president said "what we will need to do is something that is bold, radical and one that our people can understand and buy into.
"We must design a broad vision that takes into account how to implement a big plan inclusive of a focus on mass local productivity and mass employment.
"The big plan of government is to find a way for us to be able to do mass housing, increase agricultural production, ensure massive local productivity by among several other options, increasing support to MSMEs, and majorly improve avenues to put more cash in the hands of our people and also make them productive."
Committee members present at the meeting were the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo; Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq; and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Silva. Others include, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele and the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babatunde Lawal who is the secretary of the committee.
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