Economic Agenda For The New Government - by Kayode Oluwa

As the Nigerian economy presently founders and teeters on the brink, one of the critical and fundamental issues confronting the nation today is the challenge of rebuilding the economy to ensure its rapid recovery and sustainable development. 

Consequently, to actualise the much touted change revolution by the All Progressives Congress and meet the high expectations of the Nigerian people, the immediate task and priority of the incoming Muhammadu Buhari government should be to quickly hit the ground running by initiating and implementing broad-based, comprehensive and far-reaching structural economic reforms, in order to revamp the economy and steer it on the path of steady growth and development.

It must be affirmed that without structural reforms there cannot be any meaningful and enduring economic development. This is because effective structural reforms create value, growth and investment opportunities in the economy by stimulating entrepreneurship, accelerating the pace of industrialisation, as well as efficiently allocating and harnessing economic resources for sustainable development. The way and manner the new government confronts and tackles the socio-political and economic challenges confronting the nation will be crucial in determining the rapid recovery and future development of the economy, especially against the backdrop of the Vision 20: 2020, for Nigeria to be one of the 20 leading economies in the world by 2020. With the present realities of recession and dwindling fortunes in the Nigerian economy, however, it is apparent that we are not likely to achieve the Vision 2020 which is just five years away! It may, therefore, become imperative for the new government to revisit and revise the plan to Vision 20:2030, which implies that, ceteris paribus, Nigeria will be one of the 20 leading world economies by 2030.

Over the years, the effectiveness of economic policies and development strategies employed by successive governments to manage the economy has increasingly been called into question. Indeed, attempts by one government after another to solve the persistent macro-economic problems of falling output, slow/low growth, rising inflation, high level of unemployment, huge budget and balance of payment deficits and the seeming difficulties in ensuring the smooth adjustments of economic structures to changing world production patterns, through demand management policies, have failed to achieve the desired results. This is because restrictive or contractionary policies have only been able to marginally reduce inflation at the expense of increased levels of short-term unemployment, while expansionary polices designed to accelerate the rate of growth have been increasingly transmitted directly into the price level, with negligible effects on output. This policy dilemma has, therefore, brought to the fore the need for the incoming government to develop alternative new, bold, creative and imaginative approaches and development strategies in addressing key elements of macro-economic indices and solving the seeming intractable economic problems of the country.

First and foremost, the Buhari government must immediately craft and clearly articulate a corporate vision for Nigeria, as no country ever gets developed without a pre-conceived, creative vision – a definite, conscious, purposeful and deliberate plan of action and programme – which will give a clear focus, direction, road map and framework under which economic and business activities will take place. For the vision to be actualised and achieve the desired results, it must be complemented by the right structures, appropriate legislation/legal framework, effective policies and necessary infrastructure, as well as political and institutional reforms, in order to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Towards this end, the president-elect will need to put in place a “technocratic” government whereby professionals and technocrats (and not political appointees or bureaucrats) with the technical know-how/expertise, tested performance, proven track record, core competence and intellectual capacity in their respective fields or areas of specialisation are appointed to serve, oversee, coordinate and implement all areas of the economic reform agenda. 

For the national economy to be restructured along more efficient and productive lines, the key issues of economic reforms by the new government should be all-encompassing to include true fiscal federalism, resource control and revenue sharing formula based on derivation principles, significant reduction in cost of governance, tackling insecurity, corruption and unemployment, especially youth unemployment, civil service reforms, labour market reforms, tax administration reforms, public expenditure reforms, capital and financial markets reforms, power sector reforms, agricultural reforms, oil sector reforms with the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Bill, electoral/democratic reforms, among other issues bordering on our nationhood. Also, for the people to support and buy-into the reforms, there must be openness, transparency, probity, integrity and accountability by government functionaries, as well as government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. 

Furthermore, the reform programme should ensure a fundamental paradigm shift and re-adjustment in the nation’s overall economic structure and texture by rectifying structural rigidities, distortions, imbalances and inequalities in the economy, through the avoidance and phasing out of domestic policies which tend to inhibit or retard structural adjustment to lasting changes in product and factor markets. By so doing, the economic reforms will stimulate new opportunities in the real, productive sector of the economy, while eliminating the inefficient use of resources in economic activities, in order to move away from the present consumer/rental economy to a productive/self–sufficient economy, thereby spurring the desired industrial growth and development. In order to facilitate inclusive economic growth and rapid industrialisation, it is imperative that the new government should evolve a national industrial policy/development plan which should essentially focus on outward looking development strategies predicated on export expansion, diversification of the economy within and away from oil and the encouragement of the private sector to assume the commanding heights of the economy and serve as the fulcrum and engine of growth.