Merits, defects of Nigeria’s economic recovery, growth plan – Experts

Senator Udoma Udo Udoma
Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma [Photo Credit: Channels TV]

Civil society groups and economic experts have expressed different opinions on the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, NERGP, unveiled a fortnight ago by the Federal Government.

Some who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES commended government for finally giving the country a plan for the economy, but others pointed out inadequacies in the plan, including the absence of timelines, legal backing and performance monitoring indicators.

The lead director, Centre for Social Justice, CENSOJ, Eze Onyekpere, said the NERGP was a welcome development that government was finally proposing a plan for the economy.

“We have been saying we needed a plan for the recovery of the economy since the first day this government came into office. That they have finally given the country a plan is a good development,” Mr. Onyekpere said.

However, he said the real challenge was whether the recommendations and policy issues in the plan were realistic, considering the short time frame, or whether the policies were not too ambitious in their targets.

The Chief Executive Officer, Global Analytics Consult Limited, Tope Fasua, thought the plan was timely, and its intentions great, but said it is unwieldy and has an ending like another budget statement seeking to cover all sectors.

Mr. Fasua said by now government ought to have developed ‘killer apps’ that go directly to unlock aspects of the economy, arguing that a strategic plan should be sharp and specific, leaving the annual budgets and MTEF (medium term expenditure framework) to deal with the rest of the issues.

“Nigeria needs a plan that will boost labour productivity, get the youth engaged, and ensure economic sustainability,” he said.

Given the way artificial intelligence is replacing people at work these days, he said government, through the plan, appears not to have given serious thought to the problem yet.

Besides, Mr. Fasua said he was uncomfortable with some of the figures used in the plan, like unemployment statistic at 16 per cent, which he said tended to understate the situation.

“If we are talking about youth employment being the greatest issue, why are we not talking of post-secondary unemployment, which is about 70 per cent?” he asked.

The Managing Director, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Johnson Chukwu, criticized the plan for lacking in specifics, particularly on timelines and how the various policies and targets would be realized.

Mr. Chukwu said government should take ownership of the plan, by allowing the office of the Vice President to take responsibility for its full implementation.

He said the view that the private sector would be involved in the implementation of policies was vague, as nobody stated exactly in the plan how that would be achieved.

Also, Mr. Chukwu spoke about the proposed sale of public asset, without any mention of the asset to be affected and defined criteria, to know which asset would meet the criteria and how those asset would be sold.

Apart from the absence of clear timelines on policies and programmes to help monitor progress, Mr. Chukwu said aspirations, like making the country self-sufficient in fuel supply, did not address the ‘how’ question.

“Is the government going to build new refineries or revamp the existing ones to realize its domestic fuel sufficiency aspiration?” he asked.

For the Chief Consultant, B. Adedipe Associates Limited, Biodun Adedipe, the plan has passed the test of a strategic plan, by providing answers to the five issues often associated with the country’s past planning effort.

He identified the issues to include: “Where we are and how we got there. Where we are going. How we intend to get there. How do we organize and control activities? And, what we need to get there”.

Mr. Adedipe was of the view that the weak area of performance measurement in previous plans was “strongly addressed in the NERGP.”

However, to strengthen governance, he said he would love to see performance management reflected not only “defined, clear and measurable deliverables for every ministry, department and agency of government,” but for same to become targets by which every minister and public office holder would be measured.

By measuring performance every quarter, Mr. Adedipe pointed out, it would translate to 48 scores in four years of the NERGP (2017-2020).

He set his performance measuring ranges as 80 to 100 per cent for excellent (green mark), 60 to 79.99 per cent as good (amber mark), and below 60 per cent unacceptable (red mark).

“Any political and accounting officer who scored three consecutive red marks should be redeployed or replaced,” Mr. Adedipe suggested.

“With such an approach, a strong message will gradually and steadily shift focus from politics and political patronage to true governance. If the right metrics are measured and the scorecards will count, Nigeria may begin to emerge from the rhetoric to actual greatness,” he said.

He warned against branding the plan as Buhari’s, rather a Nigerian plan, saying he was confident that if well executed from the outset, most of the country’s interest groups would buy in and take ownership.

For political economist and CEO of Economic Associates Limited, Ayo Teriba, the “Federal Government has no plan, but a set of objectives.”

He warned Nigerians not to take the plan too seriously, without asking when work on the policies and programmes would be done.

The biggest shortcoming of the plan, Mr. Teriba explained, was the absence of sufficient crisis response mechanism, as it was based on the strategic implementation plan, SIP, earlier approved to take care of the short-term fiscal issues in the 2016 budget.

“Basing the NERGP on the SIP obstructs the ability of government to respond to crisis,” he said. “The plan was caught between what the government had intended to do with the SIP before the economic crisis (recession and devaluation) in the first half of 2016 and what it wants to do between now and 2020.

“In trying to fashion a policy direction, government should be realistic enough to do away with all those ideas, do a diagnostic of what brought the country to that point and come up with a crisis response strategy,” he said.

Most of the policies and programmes, he noted, had 2020 as target, arguing that this amounted to a “mere wishful thinking, mere projections without any proposal to take any action any time by anybody. There is no indication who would do what and when?

“The plan is silent on timelines. A plan should be a sequence of actions that follow up on each other towards an objective. Anybody taking the plan too seriously, without asking when work would be done, by who, is in a dreamland,” he said.

Mr. Teriba also criticised the absence of an enabling law backing the plan, pointing out that this makes it look like a joke.

“If government cannot implement an annual budget without an enabling law, how would you think the NERGP would be implemented without a law backing it up? The plan is a joke. The Federal Government has no plan, but a set of objectives,” he said.

On the way forward, Mr. Teriba said government must propose what and how it would do for the crisis in the economy to end, by taking steps to repeal certain existing laws, while new ones were enacted.

“The National Planning Commission cannot sit down and write something and call it a plan without a legal backing. That is not how countries are run. That’s a big weakness in the NERGP,” he observed.

Part of his recommendations are that the foreign exchange crisis, which was one of the main problems that drove the country into recession, must be addressed by the plan.

He faulted the country’s over-dependence on exports, saying the reason the fall in global oil prices brought the country’s economy to its knees was because the country depended too much on exports, to the exclusion of foreign investment.

“Nigeria needs to look beyond exports of any type and bring more investments to the economy, like what is happening in India and China. The greatest unease about the plan is the mindset that government will do everything in terms of providing infrastructure.

“Nigeria must open up infrastructure currently under government monopoly, so that foreign investment can come in. The best way is that it will be a public-private sector partnership. We have to move beyond PPP. Open up the sectors for private investment, to ensure sustainable economic growth,” he said.


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  • emmanuel

    During the press conference at the end of this week’s MPC, the CBN Governor begged the government and her economic team to immediately commence implementation of the ERGP. Unfortunately, that document is just a seminar paper prepared by consultants for economically blind team and would be replaced by other documents soon, because most assumptions and ifs would likely.
    Now that timeline issues have been raised from several quarters, they may tell us 2019 or 2023 in the next few days. Mango, pepper sellers and cattle rearer’s running a contemporary economy!

  • Oluwatope

    The
    Nigerian Presidency;

    (Attention:
    President M. Buhari and Vice President Y. Osinbajo),

    I hereby offer myself to assist Nigeria
    to fix its economic problems. I started monitoring Nigerian economy since 1984,while I was still a secondary school student. I reviewed various comments in the write-up on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of Nigeria (ERGN) above because of my interest and readiness and willingness to help the government in power in Nigeria to fix our (Nigerian) economic problems and state that the experts that contributed there-in have tried but I want to state that the Federal Government of Nigeria has made some economic omission and commission mistakes presently ailing its economy which it will need to correct before Nigeria can recover, grow and develop its economy sustain-ably in real terms as the getting of improved oil funds to boost our foreign reserves to manage our naira against the dollars by sale/pushing out of dollars by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is not the real term solution to Nigeria’s
    economic problems, as though it is being shown to the world as Nigeria’s getting out of recession is not real term as it is not sustainable but will fail overtime andNigeria will face more recession in future. . I can easily point out the
    mistakes I referred to above and theirsolutions now, but they may not be
    effectively used, this is based on my experience over my second book, ‘Turning
    Nigeria Around with Necessary and Effective Tools’ published in 2011, when the
    then President, to whom I sent a copy of the book to guide the then Presidency
    on Nigerian economic management, picked some portions of it and applied
    wrongly. For instance, on page 58 of the book, I stated in passing, having
    suggested all steps that needed to be taken at that time to stabilise Nigerian
    economy, the need for population control and security maintenance in Nigeria,
    the President in his bid to control population in Nigeria because he saw an indication of population
    control need in the country indicated in the book, sent a bill to the National
    Assembly of Nigeria requesting for its consideration for passing into law, an
    item (limitation of birth to a child by every couple in Nigeria), without
    knowing the undisclosed different strategies I had within me to control population in Nigeria
    when I wrote the book which were by far distant from his own suggestion, the
    National Assembly in its own wisdom struck out the bill of the then President under
    reference because of its lack of Nigerian cultural strategic potency. However,
    noting that having right economy is the strength of all other sectors of Nigeria,
    I have, as indicated above offered myself to help Nigeria
    solve its present economic problems and prepare it for sustainable economic
    development. It is on record that I have so offered my self and it will be on
    record that the Nigerian Presidency accepts my offer or rejects it, but the Presidency must know that time is not on its
    side to truly or really get Nigeria out of its economic problems before oil
    incomes become insignificantly too low to do so in view of the recent comment of the State
    Minister for Petroleum that referenced this claim in part, as a result of
    voiced future production of electric cars in the world and by extension,
    production of electric machines like generators currently using diesel in the
    world and going by the fact that oil production has time limitation oil
    reserves including those of Nigeria face depletion by time as referred to on
    page 94 of my third book, ‘Nations and States Industrialisation’ written in
    2014 and as recently spoken of by the same State Minister for Petroleum. The
    present Presidency, with good intention to solve Nigerian problems through
    solving its economic problems which is right indicated this year through Vice Presidency
    Osinbajo that the future of Nigeria depends on business, this is quite right, but
    how to go about making business the economic power of Nigeria is what is most
    needed but with what I have seen that are on ground in Nigeria, economy wise, the
    nation is presently very far from solving its economic problems as economic
    theories alone are not what will help us ecoomically in Nigeria, but practical
    economic management embedded or rooted in sound financial, accounting and business
    management with strong base of entrepreneurship and industrialisation and
    overall discipline which will be products of dusciplined financial and
    investment managers. For the Presidency and all Nigerians home and abroad to know that I know what I am writing here by knowing me, I am Oluwatope Adebayo OSHORUN, holder of Masters’ Degree in Business
    Administration-MBA (University of Ibadan), besides B.Sc(Hons) in Accounting, aChartered Accountant, an Investment Banker, a Pension Fund Management Expert, a Financial and Investment Consultant,
    a former adjunct Lecturer at Lead City University, an author whose first book, ‘Entrepreneurship-Business
    Establishment and Management’ written in 2009, was assessed, approved and
    recommended for use in Nigerian universities and other higher institutions in
    Nigeria by the Federal Government under Late President Yar’ Adua, in addition to its public usefulness, that
    informed me that on assessment, the book led all other Nigerian indigenous books
    assessed together in its year of publication. Among others, I am one of
    God’s people led by Him. If the present Nigerian government Presidency wishes to accept my offer above, it can reach me on oshoruntope@yahoo.co.uk or 08027063831 or both for talk.