The Quest for Implementable Development Framework

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The federal government must ensure that the implementation of the proposed new successor development plans, Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP 2021-2025 and 2026-2030), as well as Nigeria Agenda 2050, is not politicised and abandoned if the country must realise its development objectives. James Emejo writes

The country is on the march again for a successor blueprint that would guide its path to sustainable socioeconomic development in the next three decades.

The existing development frameworks popularly known as the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020) will both terminate in December going by their timelines.

Launched in December 2010, the Vision 20:2020 sought to among other things, place the country in league of the world’s 20 leading economies by year 2020.

On the other hand, the ERGP emerged in February 2017 to restore sustained economic growth, promote social inclusion as well as lay the foundations for long-term structural change following the global financial crisis that led the country to an economic recession in 2016.

It is, however, obvious that both the Vision 20:2020 and ERGP had failed to achieve the majority of their targets as contained in the documents.

The federal government, though admitted the shortfalls, however insisted that the existing plans as well as previous development plans had actually contributed to the current level of the country’s development so far.

But it is evident that the inability of successive governments to diversify the economy appeared to be the greatest undoing that had negatively impacted its growth prospects coupled with the threats posed by both oil price fluctuations and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, realising that the need to produce yet another development framework for the country and achieve a seamless transition to the implementation of development objectives, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, had recently inaugurated the various Technical Working Groups (TWGs) for the development of the Medium Term National Development Plan (MTNDP 2021-2025 and 2026-2030) as well as the Nigeria Agenda 2050 which are to replace existing designs.

According to him, the initiatives were designed to succeed the Vision 20:2020 and ERGP and aimed to address developmental challenges in all aspects of the country’s national life within the agreed timeframe.

He said the inauguration of the groups, which were most conducted via web conference because of the need to observe safety protocols amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, became imperative given the fact that the existing development plans are expected to lapse in December 2020 while the 2021 budget is to be guided by the plan.

Noting that there was limited time to deliver on the task at hand, Agba said the team of experts and consultants had been selected based on their wealth of experience, expertise and dedication to national assignment over the years to assist in putting together implementable successor plans.

Agba further hinted that the MTNDP 2021-2025, will be launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in December while MTNDP (2026 – 2030) report is due in February 2021 as well as the Nigeria Agenda 2050 which is expected to be ready in July next year.

According to him, the proposed plans that are currently being drafted by relevant stakeholders, was being fast-tracked to ensure that annual budgets, particularly 2021 appropriation is derived from the medium-term plans.

The minister also pointed out that the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) which was recently unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the health and economic emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to hedge the economy from sliding into deep and prolonged recession had already been integrated into the MTNDP.

The drafting of the proposed plans are particularly anchored in Buhari’s avowed determination to “lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years, particularly given the World Bank’s projection that Nigeria will become the world’s third most populous country by 2050 with over 400 million people.”

Speaking while he inaugurated the National Steering Committee (NSC) for the development of the successor plans, which was jointly chaired by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and the Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Mr. Atedo Peterside, the president tasked the committee to “oversee the execution of key deliverables, including recommending measures to ensure the continuous implementation of the plans even after the expiration of the tenure of successive administrations – including legislation, if required.”

He said: “Such legislation may introduce much-needed rigour and discipline to the nation’s development planning as well as institutionalise planned outcomes for the future. I trust that our partners in the National Assembly will support us in exploring these reforms.”

Buhari further enjoined NSC not to lose sight of the important role Nigeria plays on the continent as well as in the global community and urged them to develop frameworks to sustain national development, as well as support regional and global strategic interests, as outlined in the African Union Agenda 2063, the ECOWAS Integration Agenda 2050 and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Having received the marching orders from Buhari to design appropriate development blueprint which will take care of future challenges and opportunities, the NSC at its inaugural meeting held recently outlined the shape of what the proposed plans would look like.

Ahmed, in her preliminary remarks, identified the goals of the country’s proposed development plans particularly in infrastructure development and supporting the reduction of cost of production of goods and services, among others.

Ahmed said the plans, which she described as fully national given the participation of stakeholders from all strata of the economy in its formulation, were critical for diversifying the economy and revenue base, poverty reduction and job creation adding that it would focus on addressing constraints that hampered industrialisation and transformation of the economy.

The minister, however, stated that the lofty goals of Vision 2020 had been truncated partly by crude oil price crash due to shocks in the international market in 2016, a situation that led the economy into a recession with negative GDP growth.

But she noted that the implementation of previous and existing development plans, including the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) 1986-1980 and the three-year rolling plans, National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS), National Vision 20: 2020, Seven-Point Agenda, Transformation Agenda (2011 -2015), and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) by various administrations had contributed to Nigeria’s development.

Specifically, she said though the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement, which is expected to come into force in January 2021 had opened competition among African countries, as the continent gradually becomes borderless, only countries with actionable development plans would make the greatest impact on the new dispensation.

She, therefore, charged the steering committee to ensure that the new plans facilitate improvement in product complexity and mapping in order to acquire greater market share of the product complexity space to diversify revenue base.

The minister however, she said the country was confronted with another opportunity to develop new plans to drive government policies in the next decade.

Ahmed said: “Clearly and from all indications, the objective of the plans had not changed from the previous plans. It is all about diversifying the economy and revenue base, reducing poverty, wealth and job creation among others.

“To achieve these objectives and also play significant roles in the global markets, the plans must pay serious attention to the development of infrastructure and reducing cost of production of goods and services.”

In the same vein, Agba pointed out that some remarkable feats had been recorded though the country was yet to attain the 20th position in the world economy while it had failed to also grow at double-digit as envisaged by current plans.

He said: “It is, however, safe to state that the implementation of ERGP pulled the economy out of recession unto the path of economic growth as the economy experienced eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91 per cent in 2018 to 2.27 per cent in 2019 but declined to 1.87 per cent and 6.10 per cent in the first and second quarter of 2020 respectively due to the impact of COVID-19.”

However, there had been concerns that the so-called “Nigerian factor” could further endanger the implementation of the development plans currently being worked upon and as a result limit positive delivery.

It is particularly so given that previous administrations were notorious for policy somersaults, prompting the National Assembly to mull a bill on project continuity by successive administrations going forward.

Concerns have also been raised about the country’s habit of signing international treaties which were never domesticated.

This issues were further brought to light by Peterside, who had expressed frustration that some of the efforts and pains put into the development of past development plans were often wasted because of non-implementation.

Addressing the inaugural meeting of the NSC co-chair, representing the organized private sector (OPS), noted that previous plans under past administrations had only disappeared on the shelves, noting that economic blueprints were hardly implemented.

Peterside, who had participated in the development of several plans under the administrations of the late President Musa Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan, however enjoined the committee to see the new task as an opportunity to create a movement to liberate and develop the country.

He further encouraged members of the committee not to be discouraged by the country’s sordid history of abandoning various development plans adding that they should forget the past, and seize advantage of the country’s present economic predicaments and launch a bold plan to achieve economic success.

He added that just because previous plans failed did not foreclose further attempts.

Nonetheless, Agba said some significant progress had been recorded towards the development of the plans.

He said: “On May 4, 2020, we inaugurated a key Technical Working Group, the “Macroeconomic Framework and Growth Diagnostic” group to identify the policies and provide macroeconomic projections for the new Plans, while taking into consideration the performance of the outgoing plans and sector policy documents in the past periods.

“The Macroeconomic Framework is expected to provide guidance to the work of the remaining 25 Technical Working Groups as the information provided by the Macroeconomic Framework would have revealed the behaviour of the macroeconomic variables and human development indicators considered by the 25 TWGs in relation to the 46 sectors of the Nigeria National Accounts Statistics.

“The other 25 Technical Working Groups were inaugurated on June 11, 2020 and they commenced work immediately while the Central Working Group was inaugurated on the 7th of July, 2020.”

He said efforts had been made to ensure that the plans were all-inclusive.

According to him, most importantly, we are concerned with deepening participation of all stakeholders in the development of the new plans. We are indeed committed to producing truly Nigerian national development plans and not just Federal Government of Nigeria Plans.

“At the moment, we are in the process of engaging the grassroots through the states and the local government in the planning process which shall take place via town hall meetings where memoranda from town development associations and traditional rulers shall be received. All these efforts are to deepen engagement, participation and ownership.

“In addition, we are looking forward to developing an inclusive and participatory national Plan that is sufficiently comprehensive with the capacity to accelerate the attainment of various regional and global Agendas, including the AU Agenda 2063, ECOWAS integration Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

“I am happy to announce to you that the Macroeconomic Framework and Growth Diagnostic TWG, after three months and two weeks of tedious and rigorous work, has produced a Macroeconomic Framework report, which had been shared with the Central Working Group and presented to the remaining 25 TWGs on Wednesday, 19th August, 2020 to guide the ongoing work on their thematic areas. This Macroeconomic Framework report will be shared with you today and also the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) after your endorsement,” Agba noted.

Meanwhile, Buhari’s recent directive for a timely release of the proposed N2.3 trillion for the implementation of ESP and funds for capital projects as well as his position on ensuring continuity in the implementation of development plans even after his administration should come as a relief that implementation will never be business as usual going forward.