ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE JONATHAN, GCFR, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE EIGHTEENTH NIGERIAN ECONOMIC SUMMIT (NES#18), ABUJA, DECEMBER 3, 2012
1. I am delighted to join you at the 18th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) which is the second in the life of this Administration.
2. The regularity and frequency of the Summit underscore the fact that it is fast emerging as a model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). I commend the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the National Planning Commission (NPC), the organisers of this meeting, for their consistency in providing this platform for open and sustained dialogue on the Nigerian economy.
3. By bringing together public and private sector stakeholders to discuss the economy and evolve common strategies and policy frameworks for repositioning the country for sustained growth, this platform has proven its authenticity and relevance.
4. It is quite reassuring that the NES's technical inputs have informed a number of government policies and reform measures. The blueprints on the Transformation Agenda and the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 are living testimonies of this collaboration and synergy.
5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Summit theme: “Deregulation, Cost of Governance and Nigeria’s Economic Prospects” captures the essence of our Transformation Agenda. The goal is to unlock those critical sectors of the economy that will accelerate job and wealth creation in our country. In addition, the theme captures our commitment to good governance and efforts to fully realise our huge economic potentials.
6. In keeping with my promise made two years ago, the recommendations of the 17th Nigerian Economic Summit were received and considered by the Federal Executive Council, as potential inputs into government’s policy frameworks. Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were also directed to implement relevant aspects of the Summit recommendations.
7. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the task of nation building is a shared responsibility, requiring both the leadership and the governed to demonstrate integrity and accountability in the conduct and management of national affairs.
8. This is the guiding principle behind the determination of the Administration to hold people accountable, and ensure that business activities in both the public and private sectors are carried out responsibly, in compliance with global best practices. To accomplish this objective, we started reforming various sectors of the economy, notably, oil & gas, agriculture, solid minerals, works, housing, and power, immediately after coming into office.
9. We are also placing emphasis on transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry. The newly introduced process for the payment of subsidy on importation of refined petroleum products by marketers, as well as the empowerment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute those that undermine the system, no matter how highly placed, clearly underline our determination.
10. To monitor performance and hold officials, including Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and CEOs of public Agencies accountable, we have introduced the performance management system. With the signing of the performance contract with Ministers, the first step towards achieving this has been implemented. I trust that these initiatives will facilitate improvement in economic governance in our country.
11. As a nation, we are faced with internal and external challenges. We cannot isolate ourselves from developments around the world. The economic crisis in Europe and East Asia, global fiscal crises and insecurity in the Arab world, are impacting negatively on most economies of the world. We can only shield our economy from these crises through sustained implementation of the reform measures we have initiated.
12. This Administration is not only determined to set the right priorities, goals and targets, we are also determined to create the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. All stakeholders, including civil society organisations (CSOs), will be involved in this drive for change and transformation of our great country.
13. We are also committed to fast-tracking the deregulation of other key sectors such as Transport - particularly rail and aviation, Education and Health. Since the ultimate aim of our deregulation efforts is to provide relief for the vulnerable in our society, we will continue to take measures to mitigate the effects of the reform measures. It is in this context that we remain firmly committed to the implementation of the SURE Programme, in particular component A, which is devoted to safety net programmes.
14. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in October this year, I formally presented the 2013 Budget to the National Assembly. The budget reflects our resolve to reform the budget process and structure, in line with international best practices. To scale up the share of capital expenditure, for enhanced investment in projects and programmes, we worked very hard to significantly reduce the proportion of recurrent expenditure in the total budget.
15. In the financial sector, we have not only boosted confidence in the banking industry, we are also addressing the root causes of instability in the capital market, particularly the stock market, by working closely with all the stakeholders, including the National Assembly.
16. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the upsurge in foreign investors’ interest in our country at the London Investment Conference, the Nigeria Investment Summit in New York and the recently concluded 2012 Annual Meetings of World Bank/IMF, are clear indications of global confidence in the macro-economic policies of the Government.
17. These interests have been triggered by the sustained implementation of various reforms by this Administration.
18. Government is aware of the general feeling amongst the populace that “it is still business as usual in the public sector.” This lack of trust in the public sector is an inherited burden, which we are determined to address.
19. Let me assure you all that as far as this administration is concerned, it is no longer business as usual. We are strongly committed to rebuilding the hopes of Nigerians in the future of our country. I take seriously the trust and confidence reposed in me by Nigerians. I will discharge this sacred trust to the best of my ability, to the benefits of all people.
20. As you are aware, Government already has a framework, which empowers the Minister and Deputy Chairman of the National Planning Commission to forward Summit recommendations to the Federal Executive Council promptly. I assure you that the recommendations arising from this Summit will be thoughtfully considered.
21. I wish to thank the resource persons, in particular our foreign Guest Speaker, H.E Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, for finding the time to visit Nigeria and attend this Summit. I trust that his wealth of experience and perspectives will enrich your discussions.
22. It is now my pleasure to formally declare the 18th Nigerian Economic Summit open. I wish you all very fruitful deliberation.
23. I thank you.