Economic experts, government officials and leadership consultants gathered on Thursday at the International Conference Centre Abuja to deliberate on how the country can successfully navigate its recent exit from recession and ensure sustainable economic growth.
The experts, who brainstormed at an event tagged, ‘How to consolidate Nigeria’s exit from recession and ensure economic growth’, agreed that specific steps should be embarked on by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to ensure Nigeria does not slip back into recession.
The event was the 6th edition of the N-PoD Monthly Policy Dialogue (Summit) which was organised by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Policy Development/Analysis.
The Nigerian economy entered recession in the third quarter of 2020. Recession is a temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activities reduce drastically.
It is especially marked by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters. Nigeria witnessed this economic challenge in the second and third quarters of 2020.
The nation equally witnessed a marked reduction in spending.
But by the fourth quarter of 2020, the nation’s economy enjoyed a boost as the GDP grew by 0.11 per cent although the International Monetary Fund had predicted a further decline.
Experts say although oil production fell to about 1.5 million barrels per day as against 1.67 million barrels in the fourth quarter as a result of the COIVD-19 pandemic, a 1.7 per cent expansion in the non-oil sector (telecoms and agriculture) ensured Nigerian exited recession.
Ibrahim Hassan, the SSA to the president on policy development and analysis, who organised the event said the experts gathered to proffer solutions on how the country can ensure it does not return to recession.
‘’What options do we have to consolidate on Nigeria’s exit from recession?’’ he said. ‘’This is the main focus of this policy roundtable. There is need for an in-depth analysis of the role of the productive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.
‘’A look at the role of service sectors such as telecoms and digital economy. The decline in COVID-19 also provides a window for recovery and consolidation. If the trend continues, another lockdown is far off from the cards. This provides hope for further consolidation and economic growth.’’
He said the solutions proffered at the summit would be forwarded to the president and relevant agencies.
Some of the speakers who delivered talks at the event which also included a virtual engagement of over 600 participants, included Paul Alaje, Senior Economist, SPM Professionals; Yemi Kale, DG, National Bureau of Statistics; AB Okauru, DG Nigeria Governors Forum; Linus Okorie, CEO, Gotni Leadership Centre and Khalil Halilu, Chairman, The CANS Hub.
Two Nollywood stars, Tonto Dikeh and Kenneth Okonkwo, also delivered short talks on how the economy can be sustained especially through greater youth engagement and the entertainment industry.
Mr Alaje, who was the main speaker, said for the economic growth to be sustained, all hands must be on deck in the public and private sectors of the economy.
‘’This is not a time for blame game. We must ask ourselves some hard questions. Where were we, where are we now and where do we want to be. At this point also, we must be ready to remove our caps, roll up our sleeves and get down to work,’’ he said.
He also said Nigeria must be ready to pay more attention to the telecoms sector ‘’which makes so much but gives back so little in terms of revenue for the government coffers’’.
He added that although the government is putting so much into the agriculture, the sector gives back as little as 2 per cent of the overall government revenue.
He said the federal government can make as much as N40 trillion annually if it re-energises relevant policies in its revenue streams, plugs wastage, and ensures more open market, infrastructural development and competitiveness across its sectors.
The NBS DG, who spoke through one of his aides virtually said Nigeria can sustain its current economic trajectory if it ensures a quick diversification from oil, sustains current economic policy interventions and implements more social safety nets for the vulnerable.
Mr Halilu said for the nation to boost its economy further, it must take three quick approaches, which he listed as the data approach, utilising new technology and utilising the skills embedded in the youth.
Mr Okorie, on his part, said for the country to sustain the growth, it must pay more attention to the youth and ensure those already thriving in various sectors obtain what he termed ‘8-star’ skills which will make them globally competitive and revenue spinners for the local economy.
‘’The fastest way to exit recession and sustain it is to take the young people and the skills they possess more seriously and take them off the streets,’’ he said. ‘’Let the youth discover their skills, create a system that will allow them blossom and then create an 8-star investment around them.’’
‘’Integrate 8-star skills (which only Singapore practices) in sectors such as agriculture and creative enterprises. Extend this line of thinking to other productive sectors. If you do this consistently for 10 years, Nigeria will become a destination for prosperity and greatness.’’
‘’Nigeria has no business being poor,’’ Mr Okonkwo said. ‘’We cannot borrow our way out of recession but we can create our way out of recession. We can produce our way out of recession.’’
To sustain growth, Mr Okonkwo also advised the government to craft ‘shock absolvers’ which would ensure it does not slip back. These he said include massive industrial production, enhanced income for the populace and greater opportunities in trade and investment.
‘’We also need to adjust our laws to accommodate current realities,’’ he added.
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