Osinbajo: our post-COVID-19 priorities will focus economy, health sector
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has said Nigeria’s post-COVID-19 priorities would be focusing on economic and health sustainability.
Osinbajo stated this during a virtual interactive session organised by the London-based independent policy institute, Chatham House.
Speaking during the session, themed “Priorities for Nigeria’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery”, the Vice President said the priorities would include restoring economic growth in the immediate term, building resilience in the health sector and repositioning the economy on a sustainable footing in the medium term while saving jobs and building domestic capacity and local production in critical areas.
According to a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, the Vice President discussed the challenges posed to Nigeria by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the Nigerian government’s response aimed at ensuring lasting socio-economic recovery and growth.
Osinbajo highlighted the significant impact of the Buhari administration’s Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) as a crucial pivot in helping the country respond to the fallouts of the pandemic.
He explained that “the Buhari administration’s first priority was to protect people and their livelihoods in response to the fallout of the pandemic. One of the ways was to support the critical MSMEs sector through the Survival Fund scheme, a component under the ESP”.
According to the Vice President, “one of the specific interventions under the ESP was what we describe as the Survival Fund, which essentially was a fund to protect jobs and to ensure that during the course of the pandemic and immediately thereafter, informal workers in particular or private sector workers, especially those in the informal sector, were at least able to continue to earn some wages.”
Prof. Osinbajo stated that through the Survival Fund scheme, over 300,000 beneficiaries, as well as businesses have been supported during the pandemic “by providing salaries for three months for beneficiaries, which include private school teachers, artisans, road transporters, taxi cab operators, and commercial tricycle operators in the urban areas.
“We also sought to protect the most vulnerable, in particular, the urban poor who were also hard hit. What we did was to provide direct cash transfers to the urban poor, many of them who are captured in a social register. In the first phase of that, we are able to benefit about 1 million beneficiaries, and we are now in a position using the same social register to scale up the programme to about 20 million beneficiaries.”
Also, to stimulate production in the economy, Osinbajo noted that the Federal Government is “focused on energising existing value chain in agriculture, construction and renewable energy,” even as he highlighted the impact of the ESP’s agriculture scheme and social housing programme in improving local productivity and creating jobs.
“Our agriculture programme (under the ESP) aims at expanding productivity, creating a total of about 5 million jobs. What we have done so far is that we’ve been able to register and geotag about 5 million new farmers to farmland areas. The programme is also supporting smallholder farmers by linking them to extension services and low-interest input financing.
“We also have a mass housing programme which is designed to deliver affordable homes through direct intervention in the housing construction sector aimed at creating 1.8 million jobs together with the construction of 300,000 homes in the first phase. At the moment, the programme is ongoing in 12 states which will be expanded to all of the states in the federation.”
The Vice President further explained that the ESP was developed as a short-term strategy to address the two-fold challenge posed by the pandemic: to both public health and the national economy.
For instance, in the health sector, Prof. Osinbajo stated that a critical area for government in the fallout of the pandemic “is in doing far more with our research institutions and investing far more in these institutions.”
He said, “since February 2020 (when Nigeria confirmed its first COVID-19 case), we have significantly ramped up our testing and case management capacity. We have activated from about five molecular laboratories to about 120, most of them public laboratories.
“We have expanded the footprint of our sovereign public health response capacity, especially at the sub-national level, and in areas where such capabilities didn’t exist before.
The live event was chaired by a senior official of Chatham House; Dr. Renata Sevan.
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