Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo on Friday in Asaba, Delta State listed key economic measures to be taken by both the federal and state governments in order to pull the nation out of the poverty valley.
Prof. Osibanjo said the nation must diversify its mono economic principle and avoid over reliance on oil wealth which he insisted was not only unsustainable but not capable of creating jobs and building enduring infrastructure that will support rapid economic growth.
The vice president spoke while declaring open the 18th meeting of the Joint Planning Board (JPB) and National Council on Development Planning (NCDP) with the theme: ‘State Fiscal Sustainability and Economic Diversification in Nigeria’.
He explained to the host, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, and hundreds of delegates from states of the federation, including Commissioners of Finance and Economic Planning and their Permanent Secretaries, that the discovery of oil, which was suppose to be an added advantage to the natural endowment in the country was now hoodwinking its economy and impoverishing its citizens.
The vice president contended that Nigeria had over 112 million people in extreme poverty in 2012 when the price of oil was over $100 per barrel.
As such, Osibanjo advocated a paradigm shift from the unsustainable oil wealth, and focus on the diversification of the nation’s resources by investing in agriculture and other sectors capable of transforming the economic landscape.
He stated that governments at all levels must adopt better ways of tax administration to avoid multiple levies on small scale entrepreneurs, take advantage of areas of economic strength, invest in economic clusters, among other economic steps to ensure rapid growth.
“The reason for the diversification of our resources is because oil at whatever price will not deliver jobs, it will not provide enough money to build infrastructure and answer the human development issues. No matter how much we earn from oil, we simply cannot begin to address the fundamental problems of our lives.
“Every state must determine where it has comparative advantage and focus on such areas. Secondly, there is a great need to boost agricultural production. If states choose two or three arable crops and specialize, such specialization will enable the economics of scale across the entire value chain from preparing land, storage facilities, transportation, marketing and sales. This also implies to the agro allied value chain,” he stated.
Furthermore, the vice president urged state governments to invest in economic clusters by providing supporting infrastructure which individual artisans cannot provide on their own.
“States must take advantage of the entrepreneurial skills of Nigerians by empowering economic clusters through the provision of basic facilities and infrastructure.
“I have so far visited about 24 states as part of our MSME clinic plans taking the regulatory authorities such NAFDAC, SON, CAC to show them what the small businesses are doing and to enable the regulatory authorities to understand that these small businesses need their assistance.
“What I have seen across the states is that we have vibrant economic clusters everywhere from shoe making clusters to leather processing clusters to phone assembly and repair, steel fabrication and several agri businesses.
“What these require is some support from state and Federal governments in the provision of some infrastructure in existing clusters -infrastructure the individuals cannot afford on their own to continue in business,” he added.
Besides, Prof. Osibanjo cautioned state governments against charging fees for the laying of broadband infrastructure, saying that such practice will truncate the objective of achieving broadband connectivity by 2023.
“It is also the plan of the Federal Government to provide broadband connectivity to assist the states but the states cannot charge fees for the laying of broadband infrastructure.
“If the state decide to charge each time broadband infrastructure, is laid, it is going to hinder the 2023 objective as it will be strangulating the goose even before it starts to lay the golden eggs.
“You need to provide and facilitate the laying of broadband infrastructure and the provision of infrastructure without charging fees. It will be easier to achieve that dream of broadband connectivity by 2023, and this will provide our youths in technology to unleash their potentials.
“Similarly, we need to provide the enabling environment for small businesses to thrive. Most times the small business complain of multiple levies by local councils, states and Federal governments.
“States should invest in agencies that can help small businesses with regulations to assess them. When the businesses grow, then they can tax them. The key thing is to think out of the box and to utilize the opportunities that are open to the states,” he added.