With the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit already concluded, stakeholders addressed some key issues while suggesting ways to move the country forward. Nwakaego Ohaegbulam in this report, highlights major issues raised
Penultimate Thursday the Nigerian Economic Summit, NES came to a conclusive end in Abuja. The annual event jointly hosted by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and the National Planning Commission, in close collaboration with relevant institutions in the public and private sectors, was initiated in 1993 by the Chief Ernest Shonekan led interim National Government. It has come to serve as the foremost platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors to discuss issues and challenges facing the development of the nation’s economy with a view to developing and harmonizing common strategies for addressing them.
The Summit with a major objective of creating an enabling environment that is conducive for good governance, responsive private sector investment and sustainable economic growth and development of the Nigerian economy, focuses on creating a short to medium term policy direction for the country in line with national interest while taking into consideration, the evolving global economy.
The Summit process is one of the significant drivers for the evolution of many of the reform initiatives that government has largely accepted as recommendations made usually become part of government policy upon presentation of it to the Federal Executive Council. With the theme
‘Tough Choices: Achieving Competitiveness, Inclusive Growth and Sustainability,’ this year’s edition being the 21st set a precedence as economic experts gave divergent views on how to achieve competitiveness, inclusive growth and sustainability while investors called on government to ensure good economic policies, conducive business environment and regulations to boost development in all sectors.
Speaking on the 2015 NESG, the Chief Executive officer of the NESG Laoye Jaiyeola explained that the objective of the 2015 summit was to facilitate stakeholder’s discussions/ agreements about how best to achieve competitiveness and inclusive growth in a sustainable way, through measurable outcome as well as to push for permanent structural changes that would allow inclusive growth.
He said that the summit also considered the current economic realities facing Nigeria occasioned by declining crude oil price in the international market, the foreign exchange crisis as well as significant capital outflows from the system thus putting government in a very challenging situation that beckons for tough choices to be made with respect to ensuring economic stability.
“Achieving competitiveness in a sustainable manner, dealings with structural weakness as well as rebuilding our institutions” he said.
Speaking while delivering his keynote address, the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari promised that the Federal Government will continue to work with NESG and other stakeholders in the private sector to ensure that most of the recommendations from the summit were looked at and implemented to a large extent.
He said, “Professionalism is being encouraged, aimed at entrenching the culture of integrity, accountability and rule of law in the system. We also aimed at creating the enabling environment to enhance competitiveness to thrive for institutional reform. In terms of specific, some of the institutional reform issues include revenue diversification issues, and efficiency of tax collection.
“In terms of policy coordination, we are working together with the states. We are presently trying to put together to produce the document for economic planning in the nearest future. Nigeria being a federation, we have initiated collaboration between the federal and states for the economies of the states and federal government. In terms of working together, the National Economic Council, NEC is coordinating and in the meetings, we were able to take on power and agriculture.
“The absence of proper coordination had created difficulties in the past, hence the reason for this initiative for proper harmonization and coordination of government policies. We have tried to adopt the policy of transparency on the federation earnings, which had always been an issue between the states and federal government.”
The 3-day Summit may have already begun to yield results as the Federal Government has promised to ensure security of lives and property in the North East. Coming at the heels of the event, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, said that 90 percent of the budget of north-eastern states was presently spent on security alone which required that the area be given appropriate support from all quarters to restore peace both in the region and the country as a whole.
Government’s decision to look into the resolutions raised was further affirmed by the Director of Bureau of Public Service Reform, Dr. Joe Abah, said, “We have made a proposal on how we want to carry out reforms in the public service. Following that, we have made reviews of agencies and parastatal. Public service reforms in the last two years have focused too heavily on ministries but it is the agencies that are closer to the people and that can deliver on services. We should focus very seriously on agency reforms. Much duplication has to be addressed. We should set out framework through which we can rationalise these agencies. We need to add additional focus to what the agencies deliver and cost of running them.
While lending her voice to convergence in government institutions, a former Minister, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili said ‘we must insist that anything that exists must justify its existence in governance. We need to think of our productivity. There is absolutely zero incentive for productivity for the civil servants. Incentive drives productivity. What we have presently is that cost of bad behaviour is high. As a result of this, what we need is the productivity of Nigeria. Without improving our productivity level, we cannot compete with anyone in the world. I believe the job is for public, private sector and individual citizens. Investment, strong institutions and good leadership are needed to do the job.”
She further identified quality of leadership and quality of institutions as another critical areas that required attention to bring about the desired change adding that Nigerian government must be prepared to assemble quality individuals with strong character and building of quality institutions to drive the policies.
For the Director General, Bureau of Pubic Service Reform, Dr. Joe Abba, it was all about generating good reforms and creating a conducive environment that would enable businesses to thrive in the country. According to him, stated, “We must have continuous reform for businesses to thrive in Nigeria. We look at paying taxes, trading across border, giving credit for business, enforcing contracts and closing businesses. We must build environment that will enable businesses to operate. We have to think about power, to power factories and the problem of high interest loan from banks. These are factors that prevent businesses from growing in Nigeria.”
Economic experts among other things at the Summit expressed concern over Nigeria’s persistent economic downturn to the effect that small African countries like Uganda with only 41million population ranked higher than Nigeria in the global competitiveness index.
Stakeholders also raised several issues spanning all sectors of the economy geared towards giving Nigeria a competitive advantage through sustained and inclusive growth. Top among resolutions raised was a call for Nigeria to begin to make provisions for life beyond the restoration and sustenance of peace because peace and development were interlinked.
Other resolutions include specific recommendations on: job creation; dismantling the pillars of corruption; establishing and building upon pillars of sustainable growth and development, which include macro-economic stability and growth (fiscal and monetary policy reforms, restructure Federal Government revenues) Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SME growth (reforms to improve funding mechanisms and further diversify the economy); Institutional reforms (accountability, ICT, etc) and Competitiveness (infrastructure, policy bottlenecks, human development, etc); Align our home-grown longterm development agenda with the UN Sustainable Development Goals that will take effect in January 2016.