…insists Nigeria worst place to give birth
Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates, has faulted the focus of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Speaking at the special session of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, Gates said there was an urgent need for the Federal Government to take a second look at the National Economic Plan in terms of its priorities for human capacity development.
The philanthropist said the ERGP, which must reflect the people’s needs, should also prioritize human capital development over the physical capital as it is designed currently. He told the Nigerian government that “to anchor the economy over the long term, investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. “People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy,” Gates added.
He said that if the current education and health trends continue and the government spends the same amount with same results, there will be per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) flat lines with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth. Gates disclosed that his organisation’s total financial interventions in Nigeria have risen to $1.6 billion.
The funds are committed to addressing issues of improved primary healthcare systems, agriculture, financial inclusion and routine immunization, among others. Gates noted that the foundation was eager to support Nigeria further in assisting the country to become a global economic powerhouse that will provide the opportunity for all citizens. According to him, although Nigeria was approaching an upper middle-income status like Brazil, China and Mexico, there was the need for all its citizens to thrive in maximizing the huge potentials of the country.
He lamented that it was unfortunate that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth and has the fourth-worst maternal mortality rate ahead of Sierra Leone, Central Africa and Chad. Osinbajo, in his response, reiterated that high oil prices and economic growth of previous years did not translate into a better life for most Nigerians because grand corruption prevented investments in healthcare, education and infrastructure. “We have to put Nigeria’s money to work for Nigerians, doing the most with the least.
And we have stayed true to that vision, even as oil prices went into free fall, we ramped up investments in infrastructure, as well as our social spending,” he said. The vice-president said that the administration was prepared to take the challenges which Dangote Foundation, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had outlined head-on. He noted that Nigeria has strong economic growth and development ambitions, encapsulated in her ERGP, launched in 2017 but all of those lofty ambitions can only be achieved through the determined application of human skill and effort.
“And for that effort to be meaningful and productive, it has to come from people who are healthy, educated, and who are, and feel empowered. “It is this realisation that has helped ensure that one of the primary planks of the ERGP is ‘Investing in our people’. And it is for this reason that we are expanding the reach and quality of our healthcare, through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); and working to guarantee basic education for all persons, whilst also upgrading and modernising the quality of secondary and post-secondary education.
“And because this is the 21st century, we know that is also important to ensure that our young people are being prepared for the economies of the future, not the past. This means that STEM education is critical and that technology must lie at the heart of our educational offerings,” Osinbajo said. In an interview with State House Correspondents, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State insisted that it was not the question of adjusting the ERGP, but the budgeting system with priorities set our clearly to address human capital development issues.
He explained what Bill Gates and Dangote told NEC members was that government at all levels also need to do more. El-Rufai said that yesterday’s NEC meeting was the most import since the government of President Muhammadu Buhari came into power.
NEC, he said, has been focusing on the provision of electricity, roads and others without priority for human capital development. “There is something more important than physical infrastructure like roads, water, electricity which is investing in the people,” he added. According to El-Rufai, Nigeria’s investment in education is far below which is not appropriate.
Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, told the NEC that there was the need for the private sector companies in Nigeria to set aside one percent of their annual profit to support primary healthcare development and other critical projects that will grow the economy.
He said: “Since the rebasing of the economy, Nigeria is no longer seen as a highly poor country. “Nigeria is going to be 411 million people by 2050. Today, more than half of our population is very young and we try to educate them by ensuring that they are healthy,” he added. (New Telegraph)