Ayokunle Odekunle: The NES and the way out of Nigeria’s economic problems

by Ayokunle Odekunle

While Nigeria is heating up in its economic turmoil, the Nigerian Economic Summit couldn’t have come at a better time. Its importance in these trying times cannot be overstated. Rather, it can only be understated. Following its inauguration in 1993, the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) is held annually and is organised by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group in alliance with the Ministry of Planning. It has continued to be the Nation’s biggest economic  policy think-tank , taking the position of  thought leadership in public –private discussion relating to the  formulation and influencing of economic policies and research for the growth and transformation of the Nigerian economy.

This year, the summit will kick off on October 10, 2016 and round off two days after with the theme ‘MADE IN NIGERIA’. At this point where economic realities are forcing Nigerians to look within the shores for trade, the need for a self-sufficient economy has been telling and that make the importance of the theme more telling.  Earlier this year, when the economy began to spiral out of control, government officials launched the #BuyNaijatoGrowNaira campaign to stimulate trade between Nigerians and Nigerian brands. Unfortunately, the poor production level of local business cannot cater for such huge demands. Nevertheless, it is quite antithetical that the government is promoting trade publicly but has sustained policies that make it difficult to conduct business. At the last summit, former Georgia prime minister. Nike Gilauri highlighted that it takes just a day to register a business in Georgia. This is not quite the same in Nigeria. On Ease of Doing Business, World Bank rates Nigeria 169 out of 189 countries.  While inadequate infrastructure may not be overlooked, the absence of policies that support job creation is more profound. Nigerian government needs to do more to create an enabling environment for Nigerian businesses.

At this summit, experts would work together to suggest structural and fiscal changes that can move Nigerian forward and towards a self-sufficient economy. Unlike recent summits that focused on particular sectors, this summit will diversify into different sectors but with the sole aim of improving local production of goods and services. These would include Agriculture and Food Security, Energy Sustainability, Governance and Institutions, Human Capital Development, Infrastructure, Real Sector, Science and Technology, SME, Financial Inclusion and Financial Markets Trade, Investment and Competitiveness and others.

Diversification has been a huge topic over the years, but did not take the forefront of political and economic discussions until recently when the price of oil, which forms about 70 percent of Government revenue, crashed. Coupled with a number of poor policy decisions, Nigeria hit a recession that looks to be spiralling out of control. Economic experts predicted the crash.  Less than a year ago, at the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit, KPMG boss, Mr Kunle Elebute, predicted that Nigeria would slump into a recession. Mr Kunle had warned that the country, which was on a steady economic decline might suffer shocks. He advised that the country needed to start driving growth on sustainable basis, have fiscal multipliers and increase inputs under the country’s control such as taxes in order to provide efficient services. He had lamented that only 10 percent of the GDP was invested in infrastructural development. He advised reforms in the education and health sectors which are currently in epileptic states. Indicators like these are why the forum, which hosts many of the biggest government officials and economic players is critical to the development of Nigeria’s economy. That Nigeria eventually slipped into recession despite the warnings is a pointer that more attention must be paid to outcomes of the summit.

Results from the summit will include a practical roadmap that will contextualize “Made in Nigeria” as an economic growth and development strategy for our short, medium and long term development, partnerships and policies to deliver desired results and potentials for exports to increase foreign exchange earnings and shore up our reserves. The Summit will also emphasize the strong need for execution and proper measurement of results on the part of all stakeholders. Along with this, it would help Nigeria’s major and minor economic players understand their roles in building Nigeria for self-sufficiency.

Since not all raw materials can be gotten from Nigeria to match industrial needs, manufacturers may still have to import. Nonetheless, a balance in importation and exportation of goods and services would help reduce economic deficits. If production in the country improves, locals will reduce the demand for foreign exchange which would further strengthen the country’s weak currency.

The promise held by Nigerian Economic Summit is invigorating. While the rendezvous of economic leaders for the purpose of moving the country forward is exciting, we cannot wait to see new directives emanating from the summit to steer Nigeria out of its current quagmire.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija


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