Nigeria’s 2014 economic growth forecast to reduce by 0.5% – Okonjo-Iweala

The Coordinating Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Friday hinted that the nation’s projected economic growth rate for this year will reduce 0.5 per cent due to adverse effects of Ebola virus disease and Boko Haram terror attacks in the country.

Okonjo-Iweala who spoke in Lagos shortly after a breakfast meeting with the Global Chief Executive Officer of Unilever Plc, Mr. Paul Polman said, “We have discounted our growth by a half percentage point this year. We are still projecting to grow around 6.5 per cent. We would have grown at about seven per cent. But we have discounted that. Part of that includes consideration for Ebola.

“The half a percentage point reduction in our economic growth includes the effect of Boko Haram. We have discounted the effect of terrorism in the North East.”

The minister, however, stated that the government would continue to monitor the situation to determine if it would have further impact on the economy, adding that the Federal Government has instituted a team led by the Chief Economic Adviser to continue monitoring the impact of the Ebola virus disease on the economy.

“We have not finished. We are still monitoring. We have a little team, chaired by the Chief Economic Adviser, that is working on the impact of Ebola now. So far, what you have seen is not having that big an impact but we are still monitoring. You know it is not over, and if need be, if we see a further impact, we will announce it and we will do further work to see what further impact it will have on the growth rate.

“Now, we have to look at Ebola very carefully because we have 19 cases; and out of these we have seven deaths and 11 recoveries. We are monitoring some people in Port Harcourt area as you have heard from the minister of health.

“We believe that the very way that we have been managing this has contained it. And so, largely, people have gone about their business activities in the economy.

“You know our economy is largely driven by internal consumption. That is why we are not thinking that it would have quite a large impact. But there would be some (impact): you can see that hotel occupancy rates are down and some business meetings have been postponed by people from outside.

“So, we are taking that into account. So far, half a percentage point is largely for terror and a little bit for Ebola. But the impact is not that much,” she stated.

The finance minister explained that the visit of the Unilever CEO to Nigeria was a testament to the fact that the country was safe for businessmen, adding that the visit “is one more of an endorsement from the international community.”

Earlier in his remarks, the visiting Unilever CEO to Nigeria, Mr. Polman stated that Unilever would invest $200m in Nigeria and inaugurate one of its new facilities in the country in October.

“We have invested 50 per cent of our turnover in the last three years in Nigeria. That is probably an investment that any company will not be able to support on a long-term but we are able to do that because of our global scale and commitment to Nigeria.

“We feel this is the right time to increase our presence in Nigeria. Our growth potentials are accelerating and we think that a lot of potential are actually being unlocked right now.”

“I know Ebola itself might take 0.5 per cent of the economy as the minister has shared with me, but we should not forget that despite the threat that the country has faced here and there, you were able to curtail this horrible disease.

“The investment climate has continued to be very attractive. There are no so many countries in the world that have 6.54 per cent growth, not even in Africa either,” Polma stated.

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