Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
Economic experts on Wednesday proffered solutions to Nigeria’s short, medium and long term economic recovery and suggested how the country can raise $500billion within the next five years.
Their position was echoed by the Economic Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, who lauded their patriotism and support in the nation’s quest to strengthen the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) launched by the federal government about two years ago.
The Economists and other stakeholders who spoke at the first 2018 monthly seminar of the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), include a Cambridge trained Dr. Ayo Teriba, now the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Economic Associates; Professor Ademola Oyejide; Prof. Akpan Ekpo; Prof. Olu Ajakaye; Dr. Obadiah Mailafia; Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie; Mr. Ben Akabueze and Dr. Doyin Salami among others.
Teriba in his lead paper, â€˜Transiting from Bust to Boom: Fiscal, Financial and Infrastructure Options,â€™ was applauded by the wide spectrum of other notable economists and seminar participants as they endorsed his recommendations.
Teriba was of the view that rather than keep borrowing to fund the budget and pay other debts, the government should simply liberalise certain sectors of the economy and privatise all infrastructures to raise up to $500 billion in five years.
To make this happen, he posited that liberalisation, breaking government monopoly by licensing new entrants which have worked in the telecommunication sector, can also work in other aspects of rail, road transport, health, education and sports.
By liberalising some sectors, and embracing joint ventures as done in the oil and gas sectors and partially or wholly privatising assets, he said government would realise the revenue needed to shore up foreign reserves, boost non-oil revenue, build more infrastructures and also widen access to finance for the Nigerian business people.
According to him, partial privatisation and joint ventures should also work for refineries, pipelines, power transmission and some aspects of rail, if embraced.
Some of the assets include prisons, stadia, and government high rise buildings in prime areas.
Citing the examples of Saudi Arabia, which just privatised 16 sectors of her economy in spite of its financial strength above Nigeria and the United Kingdom, which has started relocating its prisons to free space in high brow areas, Teriba said Nigeria should no longer delay in developing non-oil revenues because of the huge infrastructural gap and poor revenue base.
The economist, who was prodded on by his colleagues, explained that except the Nigerian government develops non-oil revenues systematically, it will continue to contend with bust and boom as a result of unstable oil prices in the international market.
Teriba further explained that government must prioritise and draw permanent solutions if it was serious about overcoming its economic challenges.
He commended the government for acknowledging that it needs $100 billion annually to invest in infrastructure while it is able to spend less than $5billion. Teriba attributed the poor financial ability of the government to weak and poor revenue generation, leakages in revenue generation and bureaucratic bottleneck which slows or scuttles the Public Private Partnership initiative.
But by drawing a long term financial plan, he believes that the government can plug the shortfall by looking into privatisation, liberalisation, joint ventures and strengthening of the financial institutions to provide credit to the real sector.
The Special Adviser to the president, Dr. Dipeolu, who was a guest at the seminar, also subscribed to Teribaâ€™s proposal. He said the government was already working in that area to plug financial shortfalls but added that other areas were being added to it.
For instance, he said the need to take care of other areas made the government dialogue with oil producing communities which has resulted in increased oil production and export, the rejigging of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, which led to the capturing of over 800,000 new companies into the tax net as well as land use reform and improving the manufacturing sector, among others.
Welcoming participants earlier, the Executive Vice Chairman, ISGPP, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, said: â€œISGPP is an independent think tank committed to raising the bar of reflection on how government can work better through research and provision of innovative platforms, as this one, for executive education of those connected with, and involved, in public policy making, implementation and feedback. The purpose is to deepen policy work while at once raising the bar of discourse, of policy conversation and the professionalism of policy makers, public managers and development workers.â€
Also highlighting the reasons behind the seminar, Olaopa added: â€œIndeed ISGPP as a Think Tank is worried that the little measure of success recorded since the exit from economic recession may be traded for cheap political points by the political class. And so we think that now is the best time for economic experts and other stakeholders in the business of governance to begin a level of conversation that will deliver an alternative sustainable and inclusive model of development for Nigeria.
â€œWe understand that any country that trifles with its economy does so at its own peril. Therefore, we believe it is high time that Nigeria takes her economic growth plans more seriously by coming up with sufficiently strong and intelligent economic strategy on the basis of sound policies that will trigger the growth of the national economy.â€