These facts were laid bare by former World Bank Vice President (Africa), Mrs Oby Ezekwesili at the 43rd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, NIESV, which ended in Benin City, weekend.
Ezekwesili who served as the Minister of Education in the Obasanjo administration, noted that China spent about 15 percent of its GDP on infrastructure in the mid 2000s and this lifted the country’s economy massively.
Mrs Ezekwesili who delivered the keynote address at the conference, posited that “about $10.5 billion is needed for federal infrastructure alone especially power”.
According to the cost of doing business in Nigeria is very high mainly due to the dearth of essential infrastructure. “Indirect costs borne by firms to fill infrastructure gap in Nigeria amount to 15 per cent, in China it is 5 per cent, India 10 per cent and only two per cent in Turkey which ranks 19th in the rating for major economies in the world,” she explained..
Continuing, the former Education Minister declared that “infrastructure has made a net contribution of about one percent to Nigeria’s improved per capita growth performance in recent years. Raising the country’s infrastructure endowment to that of the region’s middle-income countries, such as Mauritius, could increase annual growth by about four percent”.
The former World Bank VP who stated that government has no business engaging in those things which the private sector is better positioned to do, called for the concessioning of all airport terminals in the country. According to her, the money spent in building such terminals could have been utilized in providing infrastructure that would impact more on majority of poor Nigerians.
Canvassing increased funding for road maintenance, Mrs Ezekwesili called for the construction of rural feeder roads to enable peasant farmers bring their products to the cities for sale instead of either allowing them to spoil or selling at give-away prices.
Saying that more two million youths join the labour market annually, Mrs Ezekwesili posited that economic growth without jobs is a source of deeper inequalities and creates social tensions.
Government, she said must “ innovate on policy solutions that rapidly expand the economy to absorb these youths. Policy solutions and investments will include removing barriers on the supply and demand side issues- quality and relevant skills based education, better investment in infrastructure
Speaking on the role for estate surveyors in infrastructure development, she enjoined them to carry out an analytical evaluation of infrastructure gap at different levels of possible intervention. She harped on the need for professional integrity and advised estate surveyors to demand for accountability and results for all public investment in infrastructure.
President Goodluck Jonathan who was represented by Works Minister, Mike Onolememen noted that the success of the transformation agenda depends on infrastructure development. According to him, Nigeria is in the process of developing a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan for the development of infrastructure in the next 30 years, (2014 -2043).
He explained that his government places premium on infrastructure projects funding because it will impact positively on the realisation of the other priorities.
President Jonathan who lauded the theme of the conference, ‘Infrastructure Development and Economic Empowerment’, posited that it couldn’t have come at a better time than now when government’s transformation agenda is geared towards achieving the objectives of Vision 2020 to which infrastructure provision is critical.
“Infrastructure development and economic growth/empowerment are mutually reinforcing as infrastructure development plays a vital role in wealth creation. The importance of infrastructure to national development cannot be over-emphasised, it is at the core of good governance and public welfare,” he said.
Earlier, the President of NIESV, Mr Emeka Eleh noted that the abysmal level of the county’s infrastructure is a serious concern to the estate surveyors. “There is no doubt that lack of appropriate maintenance of existing infrastructure is costing the nation immensely. More often than not, our infrastructure is allowed to damage considerably before attempt is made at repairs due to lack of appropriate maintenance processes,” he lamented.
The NIESV boss explained that it was against this backdrop that the theme of the annual conference was chosen.