Okwe Obi, Abuja

The World Bank has indicated that it is willing to provide technical support to Nigeria in critical areas to facilitate the country’s economic growth and development.

The Bank’s Vice President for African Region, Mr. Hafez Ghanem, who gave the indication in Abuja during a discussion with the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said the World Bank accords Nigeria top priority in its considerations.

Mr Ghanem further said the Bank will be willing to provide technical support for Nigeria in the areas of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Mid-term Review, Power Sector Reform, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), as well as population management.

He hinted that theWorld Bank was also disposed to providing technical support on ERGP delivery, performance tracking and reporting, capacity building for sector officials and economic modelling for policy analysis and forecasting. Mr. Ghanem also pledged that the Bank will increase its support for Nigeria’s Social Investment Programmers.

The Vice President added that the World Bank is committed to supporting Nigeria’s economic recovery and growth. Indeed, he asserted that given the relative size of the Nigerian economy, it would be difficult for Africa, as a whole, to grow if Nigeria is not growing.

While acknowledging that the current administration in Nigeria has shown commendable commitment in growing the economy, Mr Ghanem pledged that he would help to arrange for Nigeria to have an opportunity to speak about its economic progress at the annual meetings of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (WB/IMF) scheduled for later this year in Indonesia.

In his remarks, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma said the current Administration had to set very aggressive targets in order to meet the serious challenges it met, caused principally by the collapse in crude oil prices. Indeed, the collapse of crude oil prices exposed how dependent the economy was on commodity exports.

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In a statement signed by his media aid, Akpandem James, the minister said the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the ‘ERGP’, was therefore developed to reform the economy so as to reduce its reliance on a single commodity and place it on the path of sustained, diversified and inclusive growth. He said that with the introduction of the ERGP the economic decline has been reversed; the economy has emerged from recession and is beginning to grow again.

Udoma said that, notwithstanding the very positive economic news there is much more to be done to achieve the targets set in the ERGP.

According to him, “the government is focused on accelerating the implementation of the various initiatives in the ERGP and will soon commence a mid-term review of the plan, a project for which the country may also be asking for some technical support from the World Bank.”

Apart from the ERGP mid-term review, the minister said Nigeria would appreciate technical assistance in the areas of Power Sector Reform and PPPs, as improvements in these areas are critical if we are to achieve the rapid transformation of the economy, an objective to which the Administration is resolutely committed.

He pointed out that although a large population could be an asset, a high population growth rate could pose a challenge for any country. He told Mr. Ghanem that Nigeria’s rate of population growth needs to be moderated as one of the means of ensuring that the benefits of economic growth have the desired impact and improve the welfare of all the people.

In that connection he said that Nigeria could benefit from the experience of countries who have had success in managing their rates of population growth.

Udoma also said “it would be appreciated if the Vice President of World Bank could help designate a special session during the forthcoming IMF/World Bank meetings in Indonesia to enable Nigerian representatives speak to participants about the ERGP so as to be able to attract more investments into Nigeria to further facilitate the achievements of the objectives and targets of the Plan’

Also speaking, the Minister of State, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, asked for further support especially in the management of Nigeria’s growing population and inclusive growth.