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Dangers of Nigeria’s slow growth, by summit

By by Mathias Okwe, Abuja   |   07 October 2009   |   8:39 pm  

This is the first time a bold attempt is being taken by the Summit to measure the economic progress achieved by the government. In the past, the summit meetings had seemed mere rituals where topics were selected for discussion, and recommendations made at the end without necessarily monitoring their application and results.

And in what appears as the Nigerian authorities’ tacit admission of the NESG’s submission on the growth score card, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who represented President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua at the opening ceremony of the talk-shop which is the 15th NESG Summit, also declared that the realisation of the country’s ambitious Vision 20:2020 aspiration was dependent on the private sector playing its role as the engine of growth.

The NESG in an economic scorecard, 1999-2008, presented by its Director-General, Mr. Frank Nweke, observed that Nigeria recorded very poor progress in the period under review.

According to NESG: “In spite of efforts achieved in primary healthcare, there still remains major sustainability concerns. There is still a major imbalance between health demand and the availability of qualified personnel.

“In spite of the relative improvements in business freedom, the competitiveness of entrepreneurial pursuits is still considerably encumbered. Effectively developing the knowledge, strengthening public and corporate governance will undeniably lead to improved competitiveness outcomes and economic contributions of the non-oil sectors.

“The impacts of various policy inputs and processes have largely been on increased investments and growth without corresponding improvements on the quality of life. Poverty and unemployment remain high, although decreasing. The Human Development Index is improving at snail’s pace and can easily be reversed by major negative shock as they lack appropriate foundations.

“However, there is commendable improvement in women participation in non-agricultural economic activities. The security situation still requires major attention as the result remains mixed.”

Nweke, who was the Information and Communications Minister in the immediate past administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, explained that the measurement of the progress achievement was undertaken to among other things:

    * Provide bases for monitoring of Nigeria’s progress in building a virile economy;
    * Provide accurate and credible information and perspectives on policy issues and drivers of the economic prosperity;
    * prompt all stakeholders in private and public sectors to pay attention, learn and set the course for a better future; and
    * create a base for quick assessment and monitoring of the aspects of Nigeria’s economic lives which are doing well or require improvement.

Vice President Jonathan, in reacting to the assessment, said that the Federal Government was taking the report in its stride.

He attributed the slow progress to the consistent poor execution of capital votes in the country as a result of late passage of appropriation bills and the distraction and misplaced priorities by leaders at all levels who occupy themselves with “perceived” enemies instead of working to deliver services to the people that voted them into office.

His words: “I think the reason is because some governors and local government chairmen instead of investing their time working for the people, concentrate more on fighting perceived enemies to ensure they get 100 per cent votes at the next election. But this is not necessary, because, I have been deputy governor and governor. I know that if you are better, if you perform very well… In any case, you don’t need 100 per cent votes to be elected. That’s the major problem with politicians wanting no opposition.

“But I think at the Federal level now, we have begun the analysis of our budgets implementation and we are hopeful that the study will reveal the loopholes that we need to plug to help us in our implementation drive. We believe this is going to assist us in our implementation.

” Again, it is our fervent hope that with the extension of the budget cycle to March of next year, we would be able to increase the tempo of delivery, because contracts for this year’s budget would still be awarded in January of next year.

“But above all, we expect that the private sector would play its pivotal role as the engine of growth, without which the Vision 20:2020 may not be realised. That’s why we are embarking on privatisation to hand over enterprises to them to run effectively, including the power project. Once we accomplish our task, we would hand them over to them for proper management.”

In their interventions, the former Minister of Finance and now Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, submitted that Nigeria must quickly undertake two critical actions if she must move ahead with others.

They include the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill to enable the citizens engage their leaders and the extension of the audit just carried out in the banking sector to other sectors of the economy as a way of earning the confidence of local and international investors.



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