The President, Nigerian Economic Society (NES), Prof. Ben Aigbokhan has opposed ongoing campaign for the sale of some national assets by government to help the country get out of the current recession, adding that it’s “generationally irresponsible” to tow the path.
He said it’s even not economical and advisable to sell the assets at this point in time whereby the public has not been sufficiently carried along in order to secure their consent.
Aigbokhan to him, putting the assets on the sale block would be a contradiction of the principle of sustainable development, arguing that it would be wrong to sacrifice the welfare of future generation for the present generation.
He further contended that there was currently no clear-cut direction as to how government intended to spend the proceeds from the planned assets sale as the money could end up being wasted.
Aigbokhan said given that some of these assets are jointly owned by foreign companies, expected proceeds may not even be enough to meet the current fiscal requirement.
Worse still, he said given the current situation, the assets may be disposed of at lower economic rent simply because the country is in dire need of money.
He, therefore, concluded that it’s irresponsible for government to proceed to sell off the assets as this will only help widen the existing gap in income inequality given that only the rich will be able to acquire the assets to the detriment of the common Nigerian.
Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, as part of the programmes lined up for the 57th annual conference of the NES, themed: “Developmental State and Economic Diversification of the Nigerian Economy”, he said: “The economics of selling assets at this time is very poor. When you are selling national assets at a time of recession, it’s not going to attract the highest economic rent. We will be short-changing ourselves.”
He argued that if former president Shehu Shagari had sold off national assets at the time of the fiscal crisis in 1982, the present government would not have had any assets to privatise in 1999.
Moreover, he queried: “If we sell assets now because we want to boost our welfare, what will be left for further generations?”
However, he called for a two-pronged approach to the current diversification programme of the federal government to achieve positive results.
He said this year’s focus would be on diversification which is anchored on broad based or developmental state to achieve balanced development and not neglecting any sector.
He also said the current economic diversification effort of government could be limited by the absence of continuity in leadership at the national level given that diversification is a long term development strategy which is unlikely to be fully achieved within four years.
He, therefore, called for a review of the constitutional to provide a framework to make it mandatory for successive governments to adhere to existing policy directions.
The NES boss said it was important to pay attention particularly to labour requirements in the area of agricultural diversification because the present crop of youths may no longer be interested in the sector in the long run.
He added that a strong leadership was required to effect a broad-based economic diversification to help all sectors of the economy.