Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Economic Advisory Council (EAC) Thursday in Abuja submitted its preliminary report to President Muhammadu Buhari, lamenting that the economic growth rate is slow in contrast to the population rate that is growing at a faster pace.
The eight-member-panel chaired by Prof. Doyin Salami met with the president in the State House, highlighting a number of challenges militating against economic growth, and expressed concerns that the rate of the growth of the economy is slower than the rate of the country’s population growth.
The council therefore enumerated ways of tackling the challenge, suggesting the necessity to strengthen national statistical agencies, reform procurement processes, improve education and engage in job planning and training offered by academic institutions.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the council also expressed its views on borrowing, macroeconomic stability and the need to provide a friendly climate for foreign investment.
“We need an environment that will attract investment. People will come only when they feel confident and when they come, their exit will not be challenging,” Salami said.
The council also advocated the need to focus on legacy projects by the administration before 2023.
Speaking at the meeting, Buhari assured the council that his administration would strictly abide by the council’s advice on the economy and other related matters.
To lend credence to his promise, Buhari gave immediate directive to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, to act on one of the council’s recommendations which advises the government to address apparent lack of coordination between ministries and all agencies of government.
After listening to the report on macroeconomic importance and the council’s views as well as its recommendations, Buhari was said to have reacted to the issue of coordination raised by the council, threatening that “lack of synergy between ministries, departments and agencies would no longer be accepted,” adding: “We are working for the country, not for personal interests. We have the same objective of service to the people and we will resolve this.”
Buhari said he was pleased by the summary of the preliminary report, describing it as painstakingly thorough, pledging to incorporate what he described as its “salient points” into the federal government’s economic policies.
“I am highly pleased based on what I have read in your Executive Summary with the painstaking thoroughness of your preliminary report. I have noted the salient points of your report and these will be incorporated in government economic policies,” he promised.
Buhari also spoke on challenges confronting the economy and the tasks before the council members, highlighting complexities of the economy and how a little change in economic policies can destabilise a whole economy as he proceeded to cite an instance.
“The economy is the most delicate and sensitive of all aspects of national life. A little change in the matrix can lead to major disruptions in the national economy. For example, international changes in oil prices, bad harvests, conflicts in strategic global locations, a major epidemic or pandemic like the current Coronavirus, tariff changes in major world economies, to mention only a few examples that readily come to mind, can significantly affect our plans.”
Buhari agreed to alter his earlier position that he should be briefed once every quarter, saying the council should henceforth brief him more frequently, at least once in every six weeks, thanking the council members for accepting the challenging responsibilities placed on their shoulders. “I cannot thank you enough for your patriotism,” he said.
Other members of the council aside Salami are Dr Mohammed Sagagi, who is the vice-chairman, Prof. Ode Ojowu, Dr. Shehu Yahaya and Dr. Iyabo Masha.
Others are former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives, Dr. Bismack Rewane and Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu.