The Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, has said that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration needs to refocus it’s economic policies.
Gates stated that the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was not reflective of the people’s needs.
He made this remark on Thursday while speaking alongside the Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at a special session of the National Economic Council held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He also said the country would do better with strong investments in health and education, rather than concentrating on physical infrastructure to the detriment of human capital development.
The theme of the event was the role of human capital investment in supporting pro-poor and economic growth agenda.
The council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has all the 36 state governors, relevant ministers and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as members.
Gates stated, “Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.
“In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68; in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years.
“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in the people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritising physical capital over human capital. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
He added that investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand-in-hand with investments in the people to anchor the economy over the long term.
He noted that Nigeria’s approach placed more priority on physical capital over human capital development.
Gates stated that Nigeria had “unmatched economic potential and what becomes of that potential depends on the choice Nigerian leaders make.”
According to him, available statistics show that Nigeria “still looks like a low-income country.”
He, however, said the country would thrive if the government was ready to invest in health, education and opportunities, warning,
“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.”
He assured the government that his foundation was eager to support it to make “Nigeria a powerhouse that provides opportunities for all its citizens.”
Citing the gains Nigeria had recorded in the immunisation against polio, Gates urged the government to pursue human capital development with the same vigour to achieve the desired results.
Gates also said his foundation had invested over $1bn (N305bn) in Nigeria’s health care system.
Osinbajo, in his response, insisted that high oil prices and economic growth of previous years had failed to translate into a better life for most Nigerians.
He reiterated his position that grand corruption had prevented investments in health care, education and infrastructure.