Nigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma on Thursday told the global community that sundry economic reform initiatives of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to grow the nation’s economy, particularly the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), were achieving the desired results.

Udoma, in his remarks during the presentation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Regional Economic Outlook Report for Sub-Africa at the ongoing IMF/World Bank meetings in Bali, Indonesia to safeguard the economy from any external shocks.

Giving insight into why the ERGP, which focuses on five strategic areas: Macroeconomic Stability, Economic Diversification and Growth Drivers, Competitiveness, Social Inclusion and Jobs, as well as Governance and other Enablers was initiated by the Federal Government, the Minister said the positive trends recorded in the country’s economic indicators since the launch of the ERGP indicate that the Plan is working.

He listed some of the major positive achievements of the government as including bringing down inflation from 18.7% in January last year to 11.2% by August this year, stabilization of the exchange rate market through the introduction of the Investors and Importers foreign exchange window and shoring up the nation’s external reserves from $27 billion in 2016 to $43.9 billion by early this month.

Udoma explained further that Nigeria’s current account as a ratio of GDP had moved from a deficit of 3.2% in 2015 to a surplus of 2.8% by end of last year due largely to export growth, including significant growth in non-oil exports that has resulted in the country recording a consistently positive trade balance since the fourth quarter of 2016.

He pointed out that the implementation of the various initiatives in the ERGP had resulted also in lifting the country’s economy out of recession, adding that “our GDP grew from -1.6% in 2016 to 1.5% by the second quarter of this year, with the non-oil sector growing at 2.05% – the highest growth in the sector since the fourth quarter of 2015”.

The minister expressed optimism that the country’s growth target of 2.1% by the end of the year which is slightly lower than the IMF projection of 1.9% would be realized.

Even then, he pointed out that given Nigeria’s growth for 2017 which was only 0.8%, Nigeria’s achievement of the IMF projection of 1.9% this year would still represent a significant improvement on the 2017 growth rate.

He said: “As you have seen, these actions that we have taken have helped us to build buffers and appropriate measures to safeguard us from any external shocks.”

On the recent IMF Report which indicated that one of the downside risks to growth prospects in the sub-region is security, the Minister explained that the Nigerian government had prioritized the tackling security as a key policy thrust.

The minister explained: “Government has been able to degrade the capacity of the Boko Haram insurgents and bring stability to the affected region. We are implementing a humanitarian response plan to resettle the victims and return them safely back to their homes. Schools have re-opened and farming and other activities are being restored.”

Speaking further on the nation’s debt stock, the Minister agreed with the IMF that the debt issue required constant monitoring, adding that “even though we, in Nigeria, have one of the lowest debt levels among our African peers, we realise that we need to improve our revenues to bring down our debt service to revenue ratios to more comfortable levels.”

Udoma spoke also on various steps being undertaken by the government to bolster non-oil revenue and maintain fiscal discipline.

He clarified: “We are broadening our tax base through policy reforms such as the tax amnesty programme. This, amongst other measures, has resulted in the number of taxpayers rising from 13 million to over 19 million.

“We are also deploying technology in tax and customs’ collections to automate processes and enhance efficiencies”, the minister added.

While presenting the REO Report, IMF’s Director of African Department, Mr. Abebe Selassie, explained that the medium term per capita growth for Sub-Sahara region remained low, thus meeting the SDGs will require stronger growth and more financing for reasonable impact to be made.

The report recommended that relevant policies would be needed to create more jobs in the coming years even with the possibility that job creation might be complicated by uncertainty to the extent to which technology replaces labour.

It pointed out that economic recovery in the region is expected to continue amidst rising risks and indicated that though fiscal deficits are narrowing, the quality of adjustments needs to be strengthened; therefore countries need to improve their policy frameworks, promote diversification, deepen trade and financial integration as well as promote flexible education.