Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to go spend one hour at a health center in the necxt month.
He said the political leaders and government officials should visit health centres across the country to see how the system can be improved and how much good it will do when it is.
Speaking at the special session of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, Gates said there was urgent need for the Federal Government to take a second look at the National Economic Plan in terms of its priorities for human capacity development.
The philanthropist said the ERGP, which must reflect the people’s needs, should also prioritize human capital development over physical capital as it is designed currently. He told the Nigerian government that “to anchor the economy over the long term, investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. “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,” Gates added.
He said that if the current education and health trends continue and government spends the same amount with same results, there will be per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) flat lines with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth. Gates disclosed that his organisation’s total financial interventions in Nigeria have risen to $1.6 billion.
The funds are committed to addressing issues of improved primary healthcare systems, agriculture, financial inclusion and routine immunization, among others. Gates noted that the foundation was eager to support Nigeria further in assisting the country become a global economic powerhouse that will provide opportunity for all citizens. According to him, although Nigeria was approaching an upper middle-income status like Brazil, China and Mexico, there was need for all its citizens to thrive in maximizing the huge potentials of the country.
He lamented that it was unfortunate that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth and has the fourth worst maternal mortality rate ahead of Sierra Leone, Central Africa and Chad. Osinbajo, in his response, reiterated that high oil prices and economic growth of previous years did not translate into a better life for most Nigerians because grand corruption prevented investments in healthcare, education and infrastructure. “We have to put Nigeria’s money to work for Nigerians, doing the most with the least.
And we have stayed true to that vision, even as oil prices went into free fall, we ramped up investments in infrastructure, as well as our social spending,” he said.