1. I am delighted to be here with you today at the formal opening of the 17th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES#17), an event organized jointly by the private and public sectors, represented by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the National Planning Commission (NPC).
2. I am even more elated that you all agreed to come and dialogue, and partner with us, in our effort to transform our blessed country. Our Administration is committed to sustaining this successful partnership, which is why I have directed that the Public Sector participation be broadened. I trust that the representation from the private sector will continue to be very robust.
3. This year’s Economic Summit is unique in several respects. It is the first to be held since the inception of the current Administration, in May this year. It is also coming at a critical time in our political and economic history, following on the heels of our 51st independence anniversary. It is even more important when you consider the fact that public expectations are high. We are fully aware that concrete progress needs to be made in terms of national development, hence we have introduced measures, including the establishment of a National Economic Management Team, to place the right emphasis in this regard. I want to assure you of the determination of my Administration to lay a solid foundation for economic prosperity, upon which successive Administrations would build.
4. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, there are many strong indications that the global community has renewed its confidence in our great Country.
I am pleased to be addressing you on the heels of the positive ratings of our modest effort by the rating Agency, Fitch, which recently upgraded our outlook from negative to stable. The Agency has also affirmed our long term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘BB’- and Long-term local currency IDR at ‘BB’.
5. Messrs. Fitch also affirmed the short term rating at ‘B’ and Country Ceiling at ‘BB’-. For me, this means that the effort we have made so far is yielding dividends. I can only but thank the organized private sector for supporting the government in achieving this target.
6. We must, however, not relent in our effort. Instead, the recognition of our efforts by the ratings agencies should ginger us to be more diligent and strategically focused, in our response to the challenges we have as a country.
7. You would recall that the celebration of our Nation’s 51st independence anniversary, on October 1st, was rather somber, having pulled all the stops to celebrate our 50th anniversary the previous year.
8. It was a conscious decision to celebrate our 51st birthday in a low key fashion; while using the occasion for reflection on our country’s future for the next 50 years and beyond. We have paid attention to the size of our population and its demographic characteristics. We also strategized on how we can turn the challenges of managing a population of 167 million into opportunities for the future, with focus on empowering our vibrant youth.
9. Let me reaffirm that from this position, we see only opportunities. We see opportunities for investment in power generation, transmission and distribution. We see opportunities in mining of non-oil minerals, as well as the processing of agricultural products to add value to our produce. We see opportunities for investments in the transport sector, as well as for investments in the tourism sector.
10. We also see opportunities for investments in education, health, agriculture, aviation, and fast moving consumer goods.
All these form the key thrusts of our Government’s Transformation Agenda and Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020, which all agencies of government are working hard to actualize.
11. I am pleased to note that the 17th Nigeria Economic Summit has been structured to include a Presidential Policy Dialogue, involving Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the world’s global corporations from Europe, Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. The Presidential Policy Dialogue (PPD) is the second in the series to be held under our Administration.
12. It is reassuring to note that the PPD has served as a veritable platform for sharing information on the key initiatives of this Administration. I also note that the Summit has been designed to feature other critical sessions, aimed at bringing Chief Executive Officers of leading corporations and multilateral agencies together to discuss issues related to Nigeria’s economy and investment agenda.
13. I will like to note that the Economic Summit has, over the past 17 years, contributed immensely to strengthening the relationship between the public and the private sectors, in seeking solutions to issues critical to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
14. One key outcome of previous Summits is the Policy Commissions, which were established to facilitate the formulation and implementation of the Summits’ recommendations. In particular, the technical inputs received through the Policy Commissions have played a critical role in the emergence of a number of Government policies and reform measures.
15. Let me state that the blueprints on the Transformation Agenda and the Vision 20:2020 are a manifestation of that process. The Vision 20:2020 is a long term, strategic plan for moving our country to the league of twenty largest economies by the year 2020.
16. The framework for the implementation of the Vision is the medium term plan and, in particular, the Transformation Agenda, which is this Administration’s blueprint on key policies, programmes and projects to be implemented during 2011-2015.
17. Let me commend the organisers of the Summit for the choice of this year’s Summit theme, which is “Attracting Foreign Direct Investment, through Global Partnerships”. This is quite apt and timely. It is also consistent with the aspirations of the Transformation Agenda and Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020. This also reinforces the need to do all that is necessary to guarantee the security and profitability of foreign investments in our country.
18. We are committed to doing things differently and to fulfilling our role to our citizens and the global community. We have established clear criteria and mechanisms for benchmarking and the setting of performance targets, so we can drive our economy in a positive direction, in line with global best practices.
19. It is my belief that this forum will come up with far-reaching recommendations to address the challenges impeding our ability to fully harness our abundant human and natural resources endowment to the fullest.
20. We understand that we cannot drive this change in isolation. We urge you to be part of this process to rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs and greater wealth for our people.
21. We understand the demands which strains in the global economy are making on business. That is why we have been deliberate in our decision to accelerate economic diversification, by improving our investment environment; ensuring that our high GDP growth rates translate to significant employment generation; and implementing fiscal policies that support the private sector.
22. Our hope is that the private sector will become the real driver of economic development and growth in the country, leading to sustained wealth creation and poverty reduction.
23. The 17th Economic Summit is unique in another sense; as it represents the first, major, interaction of local and global business communities on the Nigerian soil. Over the last two years, I have requested that the recommendations of the Summit be considered by the Federal Executive Council. It is in that line that the key recommendations arising from last year’s Summit were formally discussed and approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in December 2010.
24. Our Administration also took steps to ensure that the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) implemented those aspects of the recommendations made by the Summit that related to their mandates and also rendered necessary reports. Let me assure you that the recommendations of this year’s Summit will also be appropriately tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
25. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nigerian economy recorded an average GDP growth rate of 7.85% in 2010 and 7.72% in Q2 of 2011.
With this development, our country is at a point in its history where it should attract more global investors. There is now a global understanding that Africa, and Nigeria in particular, is the new investors’ haven.
26. Let me appeal, once again, to our global partners to see us as partners in progress. The investment environment in Nigeria is ripe. We are taking necessary steps to put in place appropriate legislation to guarantee and protect your investments.
27. We are not unmindful of the security challenges that confront us. Government is taking firm steps to address the problem. We will continue to fight crime, punish offenders and do everything necessary to make our country conducive for everyone to live in and engage in genuine enterprises.
28. To members of the global investor community, I want to tell you that our economy has maintained its growth, in the face of the global economic downturn.
Meanwhile, our external trade and tariff policies are being reviewed, even as we recognize the need to promote and protect domestic industries. We are committed to creating a more responsive tariff policy which will make our prohibition list more manageable.
29. The Ministers and other public sector officials will be providing more details in their presentations and further in-depth discussion with their private sector counterparts during the course of the Summit. I understand also that a number of state Governors will participate in this Summit and use the opportunity to promote available business opportunities in their states.
30. I would like to formally acknowledge the presence of the array of experts invited from within and outside Nigeria to speak and participate in this year’s Summit. I am confident that the Nigerian economy will benefit immensely from your expertise and wealth of experience.
31. Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my honour and pleasure to formally declare the Seventeenth Nigerian Economic Summit open.
I wish you all fruitful deliberations and look forward to receiving the report of the Summit.
32. I thank you for listening and may the Almighty God bless you all.