President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday challenged participants of the 2016 Cabinet Retreat on the economy to formulate pragmatic proposals on how best to tackle Nigeria’s economic recession.
Speaking at the opening of the retreat in Abuja, the president particularly urged the cabinet members of his administration to learn from the experiences of the retreat’s facilitators and resource persons to ensure speedy economic recovery.
He noted that the retreat had become imperative because over the years, there had been a mismatch between planned targets and budgetary outcomes at the national and sectoral levels.
According to him, the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies have not also benefited significantly from working together and building consensus around common national objectives, saying that this has impeded growth and development of the country
“It is in this context that this Retreat has been designed to discuss issues around the state of the economy and build consensus among cabinet members and top government officials.
“The retreat will also serve as an opportunity to have a general overview of the economy and discuss the framework for the 2017 Budget, its key priorities and deliverables.
“This retreat is coming at a critical time in our economic history, when the Nigerian economy is in a recession, with significant downturn in performance in various sectors.
“It is with regard to the importance of this retreat that I decided to sit through the first part of the session to listen to the views from experienced economists and development experts on how best to implement our plans to rid the country of its oil dependence and to diversify the economy and bring the country out of the current economic recession.’’
According to the president, the retreat is also a lead-up to the 2017 Budget.
He, therefore, expressed the hope that the participants would come out of the sessions with a determination and common position on how to have improved synergy among the various ministries and departments for the effective formulation and implementation of the 2017 Budget.
He further said the breakout sessions would enable the participants to discuss extensively amongst themselves, the details of the four sub-themes and come up with practical solutions on the way forward.
He said this would also enable them to come out with a set of prioritised projects and programmes that will fit into the 2017 Budget.
Buhari disclosed that because of the need to focus on identified key priorities, some ministries might get significantly less capital allocation than they received in 2016, while others might get significantly more.
“You may notice that some key non-spending agencies, such as the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) are participants at this retreat.
“This deliberate inclusion underscores the commitment of this administration to leverage on private sector resources, through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and other arrangements, to augment the scarce budgetary resources at our disposal and to accelerate investments in building critical infrastructure.
“Indeed, the challenges we face in the current recession require ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, to deploy strategies that involve engaging meaningfully with the private sector, to raise the level of private sector investment in the economy as a whole,’’ he said.
Buhari also expressed the hope that the level of private investment would grow as his administration had embarked on reforms meant to make it easier to do business in Nigeria.
He said that the reforms were being introduced under the auspices of the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business.
The president reiterated the determination of his administration to continue to strategise on how best to turn the current challenges into opportunities for the nation and especially for the “vibrant youth on whose shoulders lies the future of this nation”.
He said the Federal Government had embarked on measures and actions that would open up the opportunities in the power, housing, agriculture, mining, trade and investment, Information Communication Technology (ICT), tourism, transport and other sectors.
He, therefore, reassured the nation’s teeming youths that the government would remain steadfast in its effort to ensure greater progress and prosperity for them.
Buhari stressed the need for the support and cooperation of the private sector, domestic and foreign investors, the states and local governments, the National Assembly and the judiciary as well as all well-meaning Nigerians in the task of transforming the country.
“While government is taking the lead in the task of repositioning our economy for change, we cannot achieve this completely by ourselves.
“We are confident that working together, we shall succeed.’’
The retreat, with the theme, “Building Inter-ministerial Synergy for Effective Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria,” is being attended by all cabinet members, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), permanent secretaries, and directors from the MDAs.