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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The road to achieving MDGs, by Ruhl

Nigeria still owes World Bank $3.8b

THE World Bank has identified accountability as the major input in Nigeria’s quest to join the league of the world’s top 20 economies by the year 2020.

Also, the bank has tied Nigeria’s performance on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the global success of the initiative, submitting that the World cannot achieve the MDGs if Nigeria fails to meet the targets.

In addition, the World Bank has observed that Nigeria had made no progress in reducing maternal deaths, which situation is further complicated by the zero per cent government funding for Human immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the country.

Country Director, World Bank, Onno Ruhl, made these submissions on Wednesday during a courtesy visit to the Rutam House Headquarters of The Guardian in Lagos.

Ruhl stressed that that the panacea to Nigeria’s economic woes was accountability. His words: “The answer is accountability. That is all you need. If you have accountability you are flying. The World Bank cannot do anything about it. It is your responsibility.”

On the country’s role in achieving the MDGs, Ruhl said: “The world cannot achieve the MDGs if Nigeria fails to achieve the MDGs. Although access to education has improved in Nigeria, the country has the worst maternal death rates in the world. I feel very frustrated. The truth is that the rates are still where they were (before the MDG initiative) and we have to find a way to fight it.

“The key to achieving the MDGs is to find a way to help the country achieve it on its own, rather than wanting to do World Bank projects. A lot of service delivery is from state level. Bangladesh will meet the MDGs. Nigeria should do well using the benefit of the Debt Relief Gains (DRGs).”

On the funding gaps for malaria and HIV/AIDS, Ruhl said: “Malaria is the worst disease known to mankind. It kills more people than HIV/AIDS, heart disease or any other disease. 300,000 children die yearly from malaria in Nigeria. There is no funding gap for malaria in terms of insecticide treated bednets but on drugs and residual sprays.

“There is 100 per cent international funding but zero counterpart funding from the Nigeria government on HIV. The level of ownership of the HIV/AIDS programme in Nigeria is very discouraging. Something is really wrong in the ownership as regards HIV/AIDS. It is not really a good situation. The prevalence has gone down from 10 per cent to 2.2 per cent. Just imagine it going back to 10 per cent.”

Ruhl also argued that Nigeria has struggled to make a great impact in the comity of nations despite its huge potentials.

He said: “Nigeria has done well but has not really taken off. Some large economies have taken off in the last 10 years and Nigeria is the only one that has not really taken off.

“Vision 20:2020 is actually a good thing because it qualifies the ambition the country has. Whether it happens in 2020 or 2023 but the important thing is that the drive and vision is there.”

The World Bank country director said if the forthcoming polls were credible enough, they would burnish Nigeria’s image and change foreigners’ poor perception of the country.

Ruhl disclosed that Nigeria was currently indebted to the World Bank to the tune of $3.8 billion and the bank makes $1 billion available to the country yearly.

On how prudent Nigeria has been with funds borrowed from the World Bank, He said: “The real issue is how the money is being spent. There should now be more focus on how borrowed money is spent. The issue is: is the money being well spent? It is not for the World Bank to decide. The money is available under certain circumstances. All we can make available yearly for Nigeria is $1 billion.

“The real drive for development for a country that succeed depends on the country itself. Nigeria currently owes the World Bank $3.8 billion. Nigeria is not rich but could be. The country has 100 per cent project compliance and there has not been visible cases of corruption in World Bank projects.”

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