Despite the government’s efforts towards economic recovery and growth, the Nigerian economy remains vulnerable, Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Asue Igholdalo, has said.
He said this even as President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigerians should find solution to the challenge of grand corruption he said his administration has been battling.
The two men spoke on Monday in Abuja at the opening session of the 24th Nigeria Economic Summit on the theme: “Poverty to prosperity: Making Governance & Institutions work.”
Noting the implementation of several aspects of the Nigerian Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the NESG chair urged continuation of implementation of the plan, particularly as the 2019 general elections beckon.
“There has been positive output growth noticed in five successive quarters since March 2015 as shown by the improvements in key economic indicators, cost of living as measured by headline inflation, which declined steadily for 18 months until the slight upward blip in the last two months.
“Foreign reserves rose to a five year high to about $48 billion. Government must be commended for the efforts to provide for the poorest of the poor and some improvements in the country’s business environment and administrative processes resulting in the rise in the World Bank ease of doing business ranking 169 in 2016 to 145 in 2017.
“Despite these efforts, the country remains vulnerable on multiple fronts, namely economic, social and political underscored by negative trends in several socio-economic indicators,” he said.
He said government should develop a transparent approach to monitoring and evaluating the ERGP, which must be holistic and harmonized across respective ministries, departments and agencies.
Citing the latest jobs report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Mr Ighodalo said unemployment and under-employment rates rose from 35.2 per cent in Q4 2016 to 40 per cent in Q3 2017.
This, he said, meant over four million Nigerians either lost their jobs or entered the labour market and remained unemployed, or were employed in jobs that were inadequate to their economic means during the period.
According to him, it is difficult to ignore the continued weakness of institutional frameworks, with extensive poverty and increasing threat to life and property, adding these are realities that define the country’s economic environment, which the summit must address.
The Minister of Budget & National Planning, Udoma Udoma, said the summit is a forum to continue the close collaboration between government with businesses to deepen investments in agriculture, power, manufacturing, solid minerals and services sectors of the economy.
He said government has remained focused on the implementation of the ERGP towards the recovery of the economy.
As part of the ERGP, the minister said a focus Lab process assisted Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical Development Company in obtaining expedited approvals required by its financiers from multiple government agencies.
He said a major outcome of the ERGP Focus Labs was the development of a National Gold Development Policy and the establishment of a Federal Gold Reserve Scheme in Nigeria.
Mr Udoma said the first gold refining license was issued to Kian Smith Limited, one of the companies that participated in the Focus Labs, while the government was finalizing modalities to purchase gold from local refineries through a Federal Gold Reserve Scheme.
He said the accelerated development of the National Gold Development Policy by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, and the progress recorded in implementing the Federal Gold Reserve Scheme by the Central Bank of Nigeria, were direct solutions to issues presented by investors at the ERGP Focus Labs.
The Director in charge of Africa & Middle East programmes at John Hopkins University, Peter Lewis, who was the special guest after decades of dependence on petroleum, there were signs of enterprise and possible diversification of the economy as never before
With country’s economy currently the largest in Africa in excess $425 billion, Mr Lewis said the diversification signs of dynamism over the last decade in the areas of finance, telecommunications, information technologies, media and entertainment, agriculture and manufacturing.
He said Nigeria remains a nation on the verge of developmental breakout if right choices, strategies and priorities could be made by the political leadership.
The researcher identified five strategic points he wants government to focus on to propel sustainable economic growth.
They include successful economic transition, development-oriented leadership that drives change; modest changes in governance and institutions; a Focus on binding constraints to growth; focus on livelihoods rather than “jobs” and reviving sectoral strategies, especially industrial policy.
He identified some of the obstacles to economic growth to include lack of electricity and logistics to move money around for business as well as education.
On strategic changes to move the nation forward, Mr Lewis emphasised the need for macro-economic stability, and establishment of general predictable investment climate.
“Foreign investment can be strategically important. But, there are million people in Nigeria holding capital in banks and private homes that could be brought into investments in small medium enterprises, manufacturing and industrial concerns if there was confidence in the investment environment.
“This could be possible through the strengthening of some economic institutions and regulatory agencies, political commitment to independence and stability of private business to give investors’ confidence,” he said.
For the country’s economy to breakout to high growth, competitiveness and shared prosperity, he called for strategic choices, in terms of effective economic team and strengthening peak economic institutions;
Others include establishing alliances with urban entrepreneurs and rural producers; breaking out through critical bottlenecks in infrastructure, notably electricity, and establishing more predictable environment for transactions.
President Buhari was represented by Vice president Yemi Osinbajo who declared the summit opened.
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