The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, recently disclosed that the Federal Government would soon come up with the new economic development plan. The 30-year development plan is likely to be a significant shift from the short-term plans witnessed since the advent of the current democratic dispensation by successive administrations. Being constrained by the four-year election cycle, successive administrations had not given enough thought to long-term plans in their national development agenda.
We recall that in the post-independence era and up to the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria had successfully implemented the First (1962-1968) and Second National Development Plans (1970-1974). The overthrow of the Gowon administration and the frequent change of governments that the country witnessed then might have been partly responsible for the abandonment of an economic development model that had until then served the country very well.
It was during the period of the successive development plans that Nigeria laid the vision to be a middle economic power by the turn of the present century through the massive diversification of the economy and the development of the steel project as the basis of the country’s industrial take-off. The era witnessed the massive development of infrastructure, such as power, rail and road transportation.
It is sad, however, that 50 years after, we are still on the drawing board. The imperative to draw a new plan, as the minister revealed, is based on the fact that the Vision 20:2020 plan drawn during the Gen. Sani Abacha era and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2018-2020) of the present administration which was inspired by the former, will elapse next year. To ensure the much-needed continuity in national planning and development efforts, there is urgent need for a new plan.
We commend Ahmed and her team for this realisation, just as we believe that it is the least they can do to justify their continued occupation of their offices. At a time of difficult economic challenges and now with the benefit of hindsight, the country cannot succeed without embracing visionary and disciplined economic development plans.
The country must, in fact, embrace short, medium and long-term planning. It is the latter that provides the broad framework for the other two shorter vision cycles, which are, in fact, usually drawn from it.
However, our other attempts at national development planning after 1975 failed due to lack of faithful implementation. This is why the new attempt by the present administration to return the country to the path of rectitude and proper planning must not be trifled with. For a start, government must be clear about the time frame for the plan, whether it would be a 20-year or 30-year plan. We are glad that Ahmed is aware of this important plan as she has pointed out that what is finally agreed on would be interrogated by a committee of stakeholders and experts drawn from the public and private sectors as well as from our international and development partners.
Since time is of essence in this matter of urgent national importance, care must be taken in all the steps involved in order to give the nation a realistic and workable plan. As the plan is proposed to outlive the present administration, the framers must keep this important point in view to see that it gets the buy-in of all the stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
The envisaged plan should be such that successive governments can buy into with clear goals and objectives, which can be benchmarked against their achievements when they are due. In other words, the long-term plan should be subject to periodic reviews, to ensure that the objectives are achieved.
The plan should cover all areas of national life and must be implemented with discipline and the unanimity of purpose to see it through. China, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries, which were our contemporaries at independence, have proved that with selfless planning and disciplined implementation a country can make the giant leap from a developing to a developed entity. We must not fail in our own quest for this great breakthrough.