The current economic crisis in the country should be seen as an opportunity for Nigeria to make major structural changes needed to change the country’s economy for good.
Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma told a gathering of Economists in Abuja, Tuesday, that the opportunity should be used to implement reforms needed to unlock the economic potentials of the non-oil and high-employment sectors; and subsequently achieve sustainable inclusive growth that will ensure that majority of Nigerians become more productive.
With the cooperation and collaboration of relevant stakeholders, Senator Udoma believes Government can change the Nigerian economy for good, adding that achieving the objective is a task the present administration has set for itself, and is determined to achieve.
Addressing the Conference of the Nigeria Economic Society (NES), Senator Udoma said: “We must use this crisis to introduce measures that will truly diversify the Nigerian economy by ensuring that the non-oil sector generates enough foreign currency earnings to drive the economy even without any crude oil earnings.
“Government must use this crisis as an opportunity to promote broader macroeconomic and structural reform so as to mitigate supply-side constraints and diversify the productive and revenue base of the economy.”
The Minister said Government’s plans to achieve all these are contained in the Strategic Implementation Plan, which will be expanded into a more comprehensive medium and long term plan, as a successor plan to the country’s Vision 20:2020 Plan.
The Federal Government, he said, has been working with State Governments, through the National Economic Council, to engender alignment of policies. “We also organized a retreat with them to share ideas, information and knowledge. We have also been reaching out to the private sector, to academia, to professional bodies, to civil society and other stakeholders”.
He indicated that as part of efforts in this direction, government is currently collaborating with the private sector to launch a “Made in Nigeria” campaign, with the intension of encouraging quality production and massive consumption of Made in Nigeria goods and services.
“We should encourage the branding of Nigerian products by self-regulatory industry bodies such as wine makers have in France. ‘Made in Nigeria’ should become a badge of quality. As the quality of our goods and services improve, both local and international demand for them will increase”, he pointed out.
According to him, high local demand will give Nigerian producers the platform to explore the export market. “There is no doubt that one of the fastest routes to grow our economy and to create jobs for our teeming population is by pursuing export-led growth. This strategy also holds high promise for adding to our foreign reserves and further stabilizing the Naira.”
“We are convinced that this is capable of delivering desired results and potentials for exports to increase foreign exchange earnings and shore up foreign reserves”, he added.
The Minister used the opportunity to explain that no final decision has been taken on the sale of any assets.
He said government was still open to contributions and is looking forward to receiving the recommendations from the conference as to how government can deepen and broaden the reforms being embarked upon, and aimed at restructuring the Nigerian economy and changing it for good.
Speaking after being conferred with the Fellowship of the NES, the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina dispelled the speculation that Nigeria is in debt crisis, insisting that Nigeria still remains the strongest economy in Africa.
While admitting that Nigeria has a revenue problem, he nonetheless said that Nigeria is a very resilient country and has a very resilient economy, which is why the AfDB will continue to support its growth aspirations.
He applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for securing the country’s borders noting that without secure borders, a country’s economy cannot thrive.
With appreciable success recorded in the security sector, Dr Adesina said government should also give dedicated attention to the economy. He said revamping the economy as it is at present would require tough decisions and therefore challenged the economists to provide evidence-based data to support government in its efforts to grow the economy.
He pledged the bank’s support for rehabilitation efforts in the North East of Nigeria and an additional support for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.