Tinubu and remodeling Nigeria’s economy

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“We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty”. – Bola Tinubu’s inaugural address as the 16th President of Nigeria on Monday.

The speech was less motivating and disappointing to some of his critics for lacking in substance. But for supporters of Tinubu and APC faithful, the speech was a deep reflection of what needs to be done by a government ready to hit the ground running.

However, the speech provided angles the Tinubu government wants to take Nigerians through. He assured Nigerians of his determination to govern, rather than rule them, promising to engage in consultations and never to dictate to the people.

Tinubu declared his administration’s readiness to remove fuel subsidy and re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions. He called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to work towards having a unified exchange rate.

According to the president, interest rates need to be reduced to increase investment and consumer purchasing in ways that sustain the economy at a higher level. He also promised to ensure budgetary reform, stimulate the economy without engendering inflation.

He said there will be an industrial policy that will utilise the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.

In addition, to his plans is to make electricity more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes, he promised to double power generation and improve transmission and distribution networks. He said government will review all multiple taxation and various anti-investment inhibitions and promised to ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard earned dividends and profits home.

He said government will initiate a bill to allow the administration to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvement, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.

Tinubu said government will ensure best practices in the livestock sector that would minimise the perennial conflict over land and water resources as well as create a secured rural incomes through commodity exchange boards that would guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. He promised a proactive step in strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.

While effectively tackling insecurity by reforming the security architecture, his administration shall invest more in security personnel, increase their number, better training, equipment, pay and firepower.

Tinubu presidency foreign policy objective is the peace and stability of the West African sub-region and the African continent at large. The government promised to create meaningful opportunities for our youths by creating one million new jobs in the digital economy.

However, the point of departure for this piece is centred on government’s plans to remodel the Nigeria’s economy, a laudable initiative, which reminds us of successive governments’ in this same trajectory.

A not too far voyage of this sort was the economic diversification of the Buhari administration. Although, set in its own Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP 2016-2018), the goals and objectives were simple only to be complicated on implementation. So also is the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration; well captured to take Nigeria out of our rentier crude oil dollar economy.

Alas, same fate of poor implementation caused a reversal of the policy. From these two experiences, there is nothing wrong in trying again or engaging in another policy initiative to salvage the economy, particularly, as the past failure to have a functional economy remains the critical crisis we are faced today

Currently, the GDP ending quarter 1 going into second quarter is slow with 2.31%. Unemployment is soaring close to 37% with KPMG 43% projection steering us in the face. Our 133 million multidimensional poverty-stricken brothers and sisters are hangers in the neighbourhood.

Sadly also, food inflation of 19% is just too scary to contend with, not to mention the deficiency the manufacturing sector faces with crippling cost of production and zero return on investment.

We don’t need to remind President Tinubu all these suffocate the economy. He should understand that previous governments also spoke in this light, proposed a way out but caged itself through cosmetic programmes called economic diversification or transformation.

Now, for President Tinubu, it is remodeling our economy. Fine! It a welcoming and brilliant development even as the president promised making public detail key aspects of his programme.

Nevertheless, we see need to critically point out some core areas this remodeling of the economy must not fail to appreciate. First, is science and technology that runs today’s global economy. No emerging economy slacks on this to move forward. There is already a road map through the 2021 – 2025 National Development Plan documents that incorporates science, technology and innovation into our economy.

Second, is the aspect of localisation of the industrial sector through incentives of power, electricity, road infrastructure and human capital development. What this entails is providing needed facilities for rural and semi urban areas for the establishment of industries. The industry would be aligned to turn our raw materials into finished products for local consumption and export.

Last, this borders on economic inter-governmental relations between the federal and subnational governments. Any economic remodeling that fails to incorporate subnational governments is bound to fail. A case in point is the transformation agenda policy and economic diversification.

Tinubu’s speech may lack ingredients to deliver the economy, what is paramount is implementation and deliverables. As late Nigeria’s foremost economist Sir Henry Boyo would always say, “May God save Nigeria’s economy”.

Olamilekan, political economist and host of Economic Focus on radio, writes via [email protected]; 08107407870; 08073814436