Ex-British Envoy Urges Nigeria to Reject IMF’s Projected Low Economic Ranking

Emmanuel Addeh in  Abuja

A former Director of the British Council in Nigeria, Mr David Roberts, has called on Nigeria to reject the recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which projected that the country would drop from the first to the fourth largest economy in Africa this year.

The Fund in its recent World Economic Outlook as reported by Bloomberg, estimated Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at $253 billion behind South Africa, $373 billion; Egypt, $348 billion; and Algeria, $267 billion.

It predicted that South Africa will remain the largest economy until 2027 when Egypt will overtake it.

However, the former British envoy to Nigeria said the country should rely more on data from its own statistics, rather than foreign agencies because the domestically gathered information is likely to be more accurate.

Roberts pointed out that Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa in 2014 on the strength of data gathered by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s main data repository.

He said: “In 2014 when Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, it was not because of the calculations of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. It was because Nigeria’s economy had been rebased and recalculated by the National Bureau of Statistics.

“Were it not for the NBS, the world would have continued to perceive Nigeria as Africa’s third-largest economy,” he argued.

Noting that he lived in Nigeria for a decade, he urged Nigerians to overcome their belief that Western Bretton Woods institutions are always right about them.

He added: “That is certainly not true. If Nigeria became the biggest economy on the strength of the NBS data, why would Nigeria allow itself to be downgraded and labelled the fourth largest economy in Africa this year by the IMF? Does the IMF know Nigeria better than the NBS?”

He stressed that evidence abound that the Breton Wood institution’s projections were not always correct.

“Did this same IMF not project a GDP growth of 3 per cent for Nigeria, which Nigeria overshot by delivering a 3.4 per cent quarterly growth?” Roberts queried.

He asked Nigerians to look back to the words of the late Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, spoken on January 11, 1976, when the former Nigerian  leader said, “Africa has come of age.”

Asking Nigeria to assert itself, Robert argued that the Nigerian economy is currently growing and will get even better when the Port Harcourt refinery and the Dangote facility come on stream.

“Nigeria is not some Pacific Island nation, dependent on aid. Several Western countries now depend on Nigeria for healthcare professionals and other service providers.

“Your economy is growing at 3.4 per cent. Fuel importation is down by 57 per cent. Local refining is up by 12 per cent and will explode when the Dangote and Port Harcourt Refineries kick off fully. You no longer spend N1.5 billion a month floating the Naira,”  he maintained.

The former envoy said as long as these policies continued, Nigeria’s economy could move up, advising that Nigerians should rely more on the NBS statistics and projections.

Roberts pointed out that the Goldenberg scandal and the IMF’s poor record at forecasting recessions prove that the NBS has more integrity on Nigeria’s economy than the IMF.

The IMF had stated that Nigeria’s economy, which ranked as Africa’s largest in 2022, is set to slip to fourth place this year after a series of currency devaluations.

Nigeria has been battling economic challenges since President Bola Tinubu announced significant policy reforms, including the end of the subsidy regime and the floating of the Naira. However, the local currency had recently begun a rebound.

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