COVID-19: Nigeria on track with Economic Sustainability Plan —Bello

An economic analyst and food innovation technocrat, Dr Tony Bello, has said that the nation’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) is on track to lead the country back to economic recovery post COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Shine Bridge Global Incorporated and SBG West Africa Ltd., disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos.

He said that the ESP introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari in March 2020 would drive economic growth.

According to Bello, the focus on the real sector of the economy and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has the potential to grow the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Bello believed that the economic stimulus package to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy was well-thought-out as the projected negative 4.4 per cent would greatly improve.

“The plan was well conceived in March 2020 at the initial stage of the pandemic when the President launched the Economic Sustainability Committee and I can testify that the programme is on track to achieve the economic growth objectives.

“On the GDP and economic growth, what has been very exciting for me personally is the focus on the real sectors of the economy food and agriculture being the primary driver and of course the MSMEs.

“The committee looked at four scenarios in terms of the economic impact or threat of COVID-19, I thought was a well-carried-out plan the jury is still out in terms of results and linking it back to the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

“First was to say if we do nothing in terms of economic stimulus package, what would happen to the Nigerian economy and the analysis showed that we would be negative 4.4 per cent growth if we did nothing to the economy.

“However, what would happen if N500 billion stimulus package was infused to the economy, the negative growth would be -1.94 per cent and what about N2.34 trillion and the expected to be 0.59 per cent but if increased to N3.6 trillion, negative growth would be 0.42 per cent.

“I believe the inter-ministerial committee ended up at the N2.3 trillion stimulus package to ensure that Nigeria was able to sustain the economic diversification in the pandemic and the budgeting process. I think Nigeria is on the right track with the economic sustainability plan,” Bello said.

The food innovation technocrat, however, said that the predictions by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) were in place to prepare and guide African economies toward better livelihoods for its citizens.

“The AfDB prediction for the overall Africa economy is very much on track but if we did nothing, the impact would have been much more devastating in terms of job losses, food security and threat to livelihoods of the millions of people that live in the African continent and Nigeria.

“The inter-ministerial committee, stakeholders parley with captains of industry, the private sector engagements, job creation are all pluses, the broad projections of the programme,” he said.

Bello commended government on engagements made with commodity associations on maize, rice, poultry and cassava.

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“I am very familiar with the Agriculture for Food and Jobs plan where the government has engaged commodity associations first on production of key staple foods like maize, cassava, rice, poultry fisheries and cattles.

“Also, the Federal Ministry Agriculture and Rural Development has a programme that is up and coming, to achieve all-year farming, the digital mapping and enumeration has been done for 1.5 million farmers.

“In terms of the database for the dry season and they are looking at 220,000 farmers across the country. This is a good step in the right direction.

“Also, they have engaged corporate platform partners in this programme and Shine Bridge Global is one of those in mechanised cassava farming in large scale, the goal is for each state to cultivate 20,000 hectares to be sure that we have food security in the country,” he said.

Bello applauded the AfCFTA which became effective in the country on Jan. 1, noting that it would strengthen trade ties with the country’s counterpart as well as GDP growth.