For the Federal Government to move the economy forward this year, President Muhammadu Buhari must screw up efforts to fix the rot in the critical sectors of the economy.
These are the views of experts-from insurance to the capital market; from maritime to finance; from ICT to Labour-who are unanimous in their advice to the president to rejig the economy.
They believe that rebooting the sectors is the only elixir to make them contribute meaningfully to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
For instance, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Mr Eze Onyekpere, opined that government, at all levels, should make prudence their watchword.
His words: “We need to see more prudence in managing the nation’s resources. Currently, too much waste exists, especially at the federal level. The government must focus on programmes and policies that will ensure the citizens get value for their money. In 2020, we need to get the priorities right. The country is blessed but the people are suffering. This should not continue this year”.
Onyekpere also warned the government against taking further loans to avoid sinking the country.
Also, a former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Professor Anya Anya, at a lecture in Lagos recently, said Nigeria’s economy is faced with two fundamental obstacles that need to be urgently addressed going forward.
He explained: “While the economy is growing at a miserly rate of two per cent, the population is growing currently at 3.8 per cent, nearly doubling the economic rate of growth.
“This showed that there is a fundamental dissonance between demography and the economy”.
“Much of the extra loans have been applied to recurrent expenditure given that most state governments could not even pay salaries. Indeed, it has been alleged that we spend 60-70 per cent of our total earnings in servicing debts that is paying interests (not repaying loans),” he stated.
He said despite these, the normal metrics of economics continue southward, stressing that unemployment, inflation, productivity are not giving Nigerians any cheering news either.
He pointed out that although the empanelling of an Economic Advisory Council is a step in the right direction, there is a need to face the gravity of the current situation.
“In this context, we must appeal to our leaders to wean themselves from an emerging attitude that is not helpful in our present circumstances, the tendency, to reply without deep reflection and usually with opinions rather than facts to any comments on our economy or other affairs often occasioned by new facts from research, whether from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, foreign and local respected think tanks.”
Anya said the issue of trust is also critical in governance, noting that absolute trust in a leader is vital. “A leader who will lead in an era of change must enjoy total confidence and trust of the citizens.”
According to him, the current social crisis is as frightening, given the economic crisis with tales of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, insurrection, militancy and the rampaging herdsmen.
“As an aside, it is also important to observe that the campaign against corruption is an important issue on this matter in order to tackle the disease and not merely the symptom.”
Mr Jide Awe, an ICT expert and Chairman, Conferences Committees of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), said that the (Federal ) “Government should review its policies and their implementation. It has a responsibility to ensure its policies are having real positive impact on the quality of lives of Nigerians. To meet the needs of Nigerians, government must be on the same page with the citizens in terms of priorities. Esoteric slogans are unhelpful. Governance is not an end in itself and government does itself no favours by being disconnected from the people. Through review and feedback, it should re-examine policies that touch on priority areas for the people – cost of living, health, education, housing, job creation, poverty eradication and income generation, etc. Governance is not just about increasing government revenues, how much is being invested in the people, in the nation’s human capital, in stimulating the local economy? The focus should be on how citizens survive and thrive now and in the future. Hope is essential.”
Mr Ekerete Gam-Ikon, an Insurance expert, in his own views posited that the government should revisit the insurance content of the Financial System Strategy ( FSS) 2020 Agenda to enable it contribute meaningfully to the economy by raising the bar from its 0.3 per cent contribution to the GDP.
Hear him: “Our insurance sub-sector is highly fragmented and needs to be consolidated as you have in other climes. Health Insurance, Pensions and Property and Liability Insurance should be connected.
“Government should not perceive insurance on the basis of revenue generation rather it should be seen as the instrument for loss prevention and remedy to damages. This continues to be the concern of both foreign and local investors as they always require a strong insurance sub-sector to justify their investments.”
Mr. Sola Oni, CEO, Sofunix Investment Ltd in his own views, said : “ in 2020, financial , health , technology and agriculture sectors have strong potential to provide good returns for investors, especially the financial sector, which is noted for liquidity. The sector is fast attracting millennial customers through innovative services that thrive on technology. All the sectors have to be thoroughly looked at to ensure 2020 will be a good year for Nigerians.”
Still on capital market, the Managing Director of APT Securities and Funds Ltd, Malam Garba Kurfi, believes that the restrictions of participants into OMO and Treasury Bills (TBs) will push investors into equities. “The low price of the stocks mostly trading below their fair value is an attraction to the capital markets.”
A member of Presidential Committee on the Nigerian Customs Reforms, Lucky Amiwero said looking at economic indices, there is no sign of any potential progress and there is also a decline in almost everything.
According to him, the Government itself don’t have any good economic focus when looking at the whole thing. He said the whole thing is frightening and threatening because Nigeria does not have strong economic policy.
He said nobody is too sure about the economy for 2020 because the economy is being run on borrowed money, which is not a welcome development.
He added: “Many of the things we are doing, we are not doing it on the basis of strong economy foundation. It is either we are doing it for region or we are doing it for one thing and the other.
So whe we look at the economy, it is not going the way according how it supposed to go.
“Employment is not generated. The structural foundation that will be able to generate wealth, is not structured properly. We are talking of borrowing how many trillions of Naira. If you look at listen to the comment of World Bank and people in other areas, it is not something that is too welcome.”
He hinted that a lot of people has mixfeeling, which gives serious concern because things that are supposed to be done have not be done.
He said: “It is not about making wonderful speech or political speech. Economic speech that may be guides to production and performance. So it is not the speech that is more important. People are looking at how will these things generate employment and create wealth. If you look at it one by one, we are not too sure about 2020. It is giving us sleepless night because anybody is not happy about it.
“The nation’s economy is not encouraging. If you are borrowing to run the economy and we are going to pay back. That means our economy is going to be driven by borrowing economy. When the economy is being borrowed, most of the time; they tell you what to do. It is a very bad system. Is a thing we are not too comfortable about,” he said.
He lamented that maritime sector is not faring betterand aviation sector is nfaring well and infrastructure are obsolete and everything is not helping the situation.
He noted “We are not too sure of the economy because it is not healthy. Most of our budgets are not properly harnessed when you are spending about N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly and you are spending less on education and other key areas.”
Organised labour in the textile sector among other things in 2020 demanded massive patronage of locally produced textiles byMinistries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.
The General Secretary of the National Union of Textiles Garment and Tailoring Workers (NUTGTWN), Issa Aremu, also called for the establishment of Ministry of Textile as it is being done in India, China and Pakistan.
“The objective of the proposed Ministry would be regular upgrading of the textile value chains, improve on labour productivity, maximize value-addition and formulate strategies and programme to enable the textile sector to meet the challenges to attain global competitiveness.
Aremu said the Federal Government should , in addition, up its game at combating the counterfeiting of textile products.
He reasoned that the fiscal authorities must try and compliment the commendable efforts of the CBN monetary and development financing measures.
According to him, the Customs Service has recorded some achievements in combating smuggling, but more should be done.
He said that Customs Service should come out with the new creative measures that would include consistent raids of the warehouses of smugglers in Kano, Lagos, Kaduna and other cities of the federation.
He said, “Presidential Task-force should be set up. It should be made up of Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (MITI), Budget Office of the Federation (BOF), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Textile Workers Union and Manufactures Association of Nigeria (MAN). It should have the power to confiscate goods smuggled into the country and burn them.
The union equally harped on the improved electricity supply, stating that there can never be industrialisation without constant supply of electricity.
It also called for the training and retraining of the workforce to make textile industry competitive.
“The union, therefore, calls on President Buhari to direct the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in collaboration with the CBN to provide special fund to retrain the textile workforce for the challenges of revival,” Aremu stated.
The Director General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative of Association (NECA), Dr. Timothy Olawale, on his expectation for 2020, called for synergy between the fiscal and monetary policies of government, as it seems only the monetary authorities have been in the driving seat of the economy.
He averred that for any economy to fulfil its full potential, efficiency and synergy of the fiscal and monetary authorities is critical.
The NECA DG stated that “Government should remain focused on implementing the Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP) as part of efforts to restore economic growth and expand the tax net to improve revenue generation, rather than focusing on tax increases that have remained burdensome to businesses. Beyond the rhetoric of improved Ease of Doing Business rating, we expect that greater effort would be made to reign in the excesses of some regulatory authorities, whose actions tend to stifle businesses, invariably increasing the unemployment rate. The Private Sector should be aggressively supported to create jobs through business-friendly policies and regulation.”
On the Budget 2020, Dr. Olawale called for “full and timely implementation of the budget and early release of funds in order to stimulate the economy.