Chairman, Bill and Melinda Foundation, Bill Gates, Thursday in Abuja criticised the federal government Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), describing it as a document which identifies investment in the people but fails to reflect it in its implementation.
Bill Gates stated this while attending an expanded meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) at the State House, Abuja, with the theme: ‘Human Capital Investment in Supporting Pro-poor and Economic Growth Agenda.’ At the meeting which was also attended by the President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; the business community academia, traditional rulers and some multilateral organisations, Gates described Nigeria as one of the most dangerous places in the world for childbirth.
Gates described Nigeria’s fiscal system as one that was built on low equilibrium and hence, produces low levels of service, moreso as people pay low levels of tax, adding that his foundation has its biggest office in Africa in Nigeria with over $1.6 billion invested in the country so far.
He also admonished the government to invest in healthcare, education and human capital, emphasising that investment in infrastructure on a long-term basis must go hand in hand with investment in people, promising to assist Nigeria in attaining higher equilibrium anchored on transparency through investment in the people.
“The most important choice you can make is to maximise your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.
“If you invest in their health, education and opportunities-the ‘human capital’ we are talking about today-then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognise that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
Also speaking, Dangote challenged the federal government to take the lead in investment in health, education, infrastructure and human capital development, pointing out that it is only when this is done that the country will be able to raise a crop of committed Nigerians, moreso that Nigeria is projected to become the third largest population in 2050.
“For Nigeria to truly compete globally, we must prioritise investments in the health, education and opportunity of our people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure. Together, these are the inputs that will make Nigeria richer.
“You my friends in government must lead. When you do, you will have committed Nigerians like myself joining in the effort. In Nigeria, we have largely achieved growth by extracting natural resources and are now building on that through our physical infrastructure. But we must also remember that it is our young people that will drive our future success.
In his own remarks, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who presided over the meeting, said this administration is conversant with challenges confronting the country and is determined to nip them in the bud.
According to him, the government will accept the posers thrown to it by Gates and Dangote, saying: “We have no other choice, because the problem literally grows daily,” adding that the country has strong ERGP whose outlines can only be achieved through human skills and efforts.
According to him, the country is expanding the frontiers of its investment in health, education and young ones adding that for the government effort to yield desired results, it must be driven by healthy and educated people.
But the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has lauded Gates for his interest and support for the country, stating that he shares his concerns on the challenges facing the nation.
Abubakar in a tweet said:: “I applaud Gates for his interest and support for Nigeria. I share his concerns about the challenges we face and believe as he does they can be overcome when we as a nation consciously make requisite investments in our human capital and infrastructure.”
I applaud @BillGates for his interest and support of 🇳🇬. I share his concerns of the challenges we face and believe as he does they can be overcome when we as a nation consciously make requisite investments in our human capital and infrastructure.
— Atiku Abubakar (@atiku) March 22, 2018