OPS’ dilemma over new economic plan

Members of the organised private sector (OPS) have expressed doubts over the proposed plans by the Federal Government to establish a new 10-year economic plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP), Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

Indeed, this week, President Muhammadu Buhari received the report of the Economic Advisory Council of Nigeria (EAC) on the economy growth rate.

Particularly, the EAC submitted an executive brief to the president on the direction the economy is heading.

However, the fundamentals of the Nigerian economic growth have shown that there are concerns around the rate of growth, which still lags behind the country’s population growth rate despite numerous plans initiated by past and present governments.

Besides, Nigeria’s history of brilliant committees with sub-optimal performance continue to dampen the expectations of industry stakeholders, private sector and Nigerians in general.

Particularly, under the present regime, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), and the recently dissolved Economic Management Team (EMT) are all examples of committees that have had little or no impact as economic performance remains well below ERGP projections.

New economic plan

Based on the premise of a lull in the economy and inability of the various plans to impact positively on the economy, the Federal Government has reiterated that it was planning to float a new 10-year economic plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, stated this recently while receiving the Japanese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Nigeria, Yutaka Kikuta, in his office in Abuja.

He said that a new economic blueprint for the country was imperative following the winding down of the ERGP this year.

Agba, according to a statement from the ministry, said the Federal Government had made tremendous progress in its effort to reposition the economy of the country.

He said: “The National Development Plan will be a 10-year plan for Nigerians.

“It will be broken down into two five-year medium-term plans, from which the annual budgets would be drawn.”

Already, the Chairman of the EAC, Prof. Doyin Salami, had reiterated that the success of any economic think tank was highly dependent on the implementation of the recommendations made.

In the EAC reports, Salami alluded to the fact that the country was in dire need of purposeful and assertive technocrats with integrity to recommend and implement favourable economic policies.

It is uncertain whether the EAC reflects seriousness on the part of the Presidency or just an attempt at playing to the gallery to shut the mouth of critics, especially as it has only an advisory role.

OPS’ position

In line with the Presidency’s stance to establish a new economic plan, some members of the organized private sector are worried over the economic implications the process will take.

Speaking in an interview with New Telegraph, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, explained that Nigeria had plethora of economic plans, programmes, visions and agenda since independence with the target to sharpen the country’s economic growth and also position it in a positive direction.

“We have had a plethora of governmental economic plans, programmes, visions and agenda since independence. In the sixties up unto the early eighties, we had the National Development Plans. These were very comprehensive economic plans with a long-term view of the economy.

“Thereafter, we had the Rolling Plans, Vision 2010, National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Seven-PointAgenda, Transformation Agenda, Vision 20 2020, and lately the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

“The general thrusts of these policy documents were essentially the same. The goals and objectives were lofty. But the common challenge was the capacity to deliver in terms of the political will, the skill sets, the appropriateness of policy, the quality of the institutions, the quality of regulations, the quality of political governance and the quality of the bureaucracy.

“We have the resources and we have the people; the trouble is the absence of the right mix of policy and governance to deliver the right outcomes. Much of the progress that has been made, especially in the economic front, was not so much because of the policies of government, but in spite of them.”

Also, the immediate past president of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Babatunde Ruwase, explained that rolling out a new 10-year plan to replace ERGP at this moment was like shifting a goal post, saying when government realises the amount of taxpayers’ monies that it will gulp on another policy formulation, it’s better to modify ERGP.

Ruwase explained that it was not the right time to kick-start another new economic plan by President Muhammadu Buhari administration but rather to look inward at the factors that caused the country not to achieve its set objective, following the numerous failed economic plans initiated in the past.

Ruwase said: “I saw the flash that government is planning a 10-year successor plan to replace the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. But then, it’s like shifting the post during a football match.

“We started with ‘Better life for everybody’ when Gowon was there. Also, the vision 20: 2020 of the year 2000 and now the year 2020 is here and we are talking of another 10-year economic plan.

“I think we should be looking at those factors that have made us not to achieve our set objectives. If we don’t address those things we will never achieve it because this has to do with the way we organise ourselves.

“We have been talking about the inconsistency in government’s policy, we are talking about spending a lot on cost of governance, we are talking about our inability to fight corruption, we are talking of Nigerians not having spirit of patriotism in Nigeria.

“So these are the things that are negating our set objectives. It doesn’t matter whether we are looking at one day, we are looking at 10 years, because these bad influences that are there are still there, we will not achieve anything because a journey of 100 years begins with a step.”

Last Line             

For the OPS, ultimately, the economy is about impact on people’s welfare. Productivity in the economy is still very low, impacting adversely on competitiveness and the capacity to create wealth and jobs.

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