Ballata for Wale Edun (II)

Anthony Kila writes on the need for the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, to put policies in place to make Nigeria destination of first choice by foreign investors.

Dear Chief Wale Edun,

We suspended the first part of this epistle to you, saying that we need policies aimed at attracting investors who invest in dollars and other foreign currencies and who are looking for land, people, projects, and even the sun to build factories, refineries, roads, and hospitals. Not foreign investors that come with little to look for for funds in Nigeria. There is to be a clear message that says, “Nigeria is open for business”. That is a slogan; actions must, however, match words. Naturally, we must start by keeping the investors in the country, not losing them.

Now that we have officially started the second quarter of the four quarters for which the administration you serve is elected, you need to dance more than ever. There is a lot to be done, and there is an awful lot you can personally lead and should do simultaneously.

An excellent place to start is with a clear, conscious, and coordinated effort to ensure that businesses and investors who intend to leave the country do not easily do so. To do that, I suggest you, as Coordinating Minister for the economy, open or help others open a desk whose task is to liaise with businesses and investors currently in the country who, for any reason, are planning to exit the country. A kind of “Talk to us before you leave” desk. This kind of engagement will give you a direct and detailed idea of why businesses and investors want to leave your country. Where possible, it will also allow you to offer them bespoke reasons to stay and persuade them to stay with direct interventions; where not possible, you will at least get a complete and quick understanding of new gaps to fill and opportunities to advertise to others.

In all cases, operating a “Talk to us before you leave” desk will send a message to the economic world in general, as well as businesses and investors in particular, that your country cares about those generating wealth and jobs and that you will go out of the way to keep them. Yes, such a message will reassure existing businesses and investors and encourage potential ones to come to the country.

In our bid to shore up our foreign reserve and, by so doing, fortify the naira, diversification remains critical and many before you have said so. You now have a chance to dance to action. My suggested path is to add the increase in quantity and production quality to the mantra of diversification.

Those who think we can, in this time and age, build a productive country through import tariffs and protective measures are wrong. The right thing to do is to create a generation of producers and geopolitical areas capable of producing some items, not all that we can consume and export. The key is competitive advantage via specialisation in the formation of skills and production of goods and services.

As coordinating minister for the economy, I propose that you give the required impetus to and work with other government agencies and offices to identify and remove the hurdles to the production of goods and services that can be consumed in Nigeria and exported to reduce general prices, create jobs and earn foreign currency.

Such an exercise will allow you to discover how many production and operation managers we train in the country and how many are needed annually. CIAPS is already training some, and a lot more are required.

As minister for finance, I also propose that you look at tax policies that will aid the production of goods and services and foster the creation of jobs and wealth.

There seems to be a general frenzy for more: Workers want higher salaries, traders want to charge more money for their goods and services, and the government wants more loans and taxes to function. That is an understandable same of the same.

I argue that it is time we try another style of dance.

Let us explore policies that give less and ask for less. Let us reduce how much the government charges when we deal and how much it pays when it provides; ask landlords to freeze house rents; ask states to freeze or even reduce charges on land, VAT, etc.

How do we fund the very needed infrastructure and other services?

A reader might ask, the answer is a different dance from the old steps. We need to think of entering into private partnerships and, of course, (re) introduce that dreaded concept of privatisation. For every kobo we need to spend, for every road or facility we need to build, let us see if there are private companies wishing to invest in creating them. We don’t have to sell off every road and every facility in the country. Private partners can build and operate on behalf of the government; they can develop and transfer after some time. In all cases, the key is that the government does not have to look for money for its activities or at least look for more.

Dear Minister, just last week, we read that the Federal Government is taking the state government to court; my comments on that move will be for another day.

My input for you today is to find a way to work with each state to see how they fit into a national economic plan. Let us be clear: I am not talking about giving money to states; the idea is to discover how states can contribute to your dance of giving less and doing more. Let us imagine a country where each region of the country or even each of the 36 states of the federation is known for producing some goods and services or is specialised in creating specific skills or other.

There is an excellent initiative in town called the consumer credit scheme managed by the newly formed Nigerian Credit Consumer Credit Corporation (known as “CrediCorp”). Some of us are worried that the founding vision of this project is being blurred and its operation adulterated from what it ought to be.

Dear Minister, that initiative is a needed one and can become legacy project; you have a duty of stepping in personally and directly to avoid it being bastardised into another wholesale lending rather than the proper consumer credit scheme it was built to be.

Join me on Twitter @anthonykila to share your insights and continue these conversations.

-Kila is an Institute Director at CIAPS.

Related Articles