AFTER THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND GROWTH PLAN, WHAT NEXT?

Background/Introduction

It is common knowledge that during the early post-independence era, Nigeria’s development quest was articulated and driven based/driven by development plans before this approach was jettisoned in favour of annual budgetary plans. The economic growth pattern during the era of development plans and subsequently varied.

However under the leadership of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, an ambitious, robust and well thought out National Development Strategy Document was crafted to drive the development quest of that administration. The document was the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)

The NEEDS document apart from being well written in terms of the sectoral agendas, an excellent implementation framework was also put in place with a huge dose of support given by donor development partners. It is on record that the economic growth rate and patterns in the years of NEEDS implementation was enviable so much so that at a point economic experts and leaders across the globe started to modify the acronym BRICS to BRINCS to include Nigeria which was seen as strong emerging economy which was expected be among the 20 leading economies by year 2020.

The years between 2007 when President Obasanjo left office up till year 2015 still benefitted immensely from the momentum created by NEEDS though the fortune of the country had started sliding downwards evident in the exchange rate of the Naira to a Dollar which stood at N165 to a $1 as at 2015 (We thought it was not going to get any worse but we were wrong as N363 is now exchanged for a dollar.

Now, with the arrival of the APC government led by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal level with the slogan of CHANGE in 2015, hopes were very high and Nigerians expected the new government to reverse the economic misfortune of many Nigerians and build a strong economy again.

However, many months and over a year down the line, it became obvious that the Buhari administration has no development blueprint needed to achieve the aspirations of Nigerians and expectedly the government was being criticized for being ill-prepared to tackle the economic problems of the country. In response to the criticisms and agitations, the Buhari government hurriedly came up with the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) Document.

The ERGP document is a beautiful and good document on paper having stated that there will be a focus on tackling the constraints to growth but in my opinion the implementation framework is defective and the actual delivery of the expected goals/goods of the ERGP has been very poor when compared to what was delivered under NEEDS. While in the ERGP document it was acknowledged that the growth rate between 2011 – 2015 was an average of 4.8 per cent, it however noted that the structure of the economy was still highly import dependent, consumption driven, undiversified and non-inclusive. 

Nigeria’s real GDP growth rate.

Year       Value %

2018          1.9

2017          0.8

2016          – 1.6

2015          2.7

2014         6.3

2013         5.4

2012         4.3

2011          4.9

2010          11.3

2009           8.4

2008           7.2

2007           7.3

Source: World Data Atlas

Hence the ERGP was meant to address these aforementioned anomalies and the Buhari government consequently anchored her economic redemption quest on three policy goals of; Tackling Corruption, Improving Security and Rebuilding the Economy.

It is within the context of rebuilding the economy that ERGP which is a medium-term plan between year 2017 – 2020 falls. Now there are three big questions that we should ask and these are:

  1. How well has the implementation of ERGP fared in propelling economic growth?
  2. What ought to have been done to properly implement ERGP?
  3. After ERGP, What Next? (that is why we are here)

My honest and objective opinion is that the implementation of the ERGP has been extremely poor and as such has failed to deliver the expected enviable and inclusive growth. The question then should be, what was responsible for the poor implementation?

Some shortcomings of the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan

  1. Having the Delivery Unit for the implementation of the ERGP in the Presidency was a wrong approach. This rubbed off negatively on its implementation making ERGP implementation too Elitist with the creation of implementation labs nonetheless unlike with the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy which was very inclusive in implementation.
  2. The concept/doctrine of ERGP did not sufficiently cascade to States and Local Governments. It was only being mentioned in passing. We must understand that the Federal Government cannot work in isolation if growth and development is to be achieved in Nigeria.
  3. Key drivers of the ERGP are not the best fit for the job as too much political patronage is involved.
  4.  The engagement and involvement of donor development partners have been very little when compared to what happened under NEEDS.
  5. The first four years of the Buhari administration has witnessed very serious policy summersault (especially the forex policy)

In the last four years, there has been a cloud of uncertainty about the direction of the government’s economic policies and as such both local and foreign investors and potential that operate as private sector players have held back funds while some have relocated leading to job losses.

Inadvertently also, most of the leaders in government keep on de-marketing Nigeria and Nigerians by their utterances and actions. Specifically, three major ways Nigeria is being de-marketed and made unattractive to investors include:

  1. Utterances of government officials giving the impression that all Nigerians are corrupt.
  2. Inability to curb insecurity
  3. Disobedience to the rule of law.

What ought to have been done to implement ERGP well?

  1. There ought to have been CHAMPIONS of ERGP at the State and Local Government Levels. Doing that will elicit interest from donor development partners and ensure broad based inclusion.
  2. Reduce or completely avoid political patronage in recruiting those to implement ERGP.
  3. Rethink the policy and politics of power generation and distribution as well as step up efforts at road construction and rehabilitation across Nigeria.
  4. Submit to the rule of law.
  5. The government must begin to put its best foot forward in the public domain so that the de-marketing of Nigeria can stop.
  6. The government must continue to improve the business environment.
  7. Instead of misapplying the Abacha loot under the guise of an opaque Social Investment Programme, such funds and related funds should be targeted at power infrastructure, road infrastructure, achieving universal health coverage, education and SMEs.

There has not been enough openness about government business and this has resulted in trust deficit among investors and the citizens. For example if the government has made so much money from the Treasury single Account, recovered loots, stamp duties etc apart from the traditional sources of revenue, why do we still have a less that 50% performance of the annual budget on the average when it comes to capital expenditure?

So many things are still shrouded in secrecy despite the Freedom of Information Bill that has been passed into law. There is the need to rebuild the confidence of the citizens in the government and government actions.

In conclusion and in response to the question; After ERGP What Next? I will say there is the need to roll over the ERGP for another three years at least and correct the implementation deficiencies going forward.

Thanks for reading.

Dr Olalekan Obademi, Country Team Lead, Focused Development Associates.

Email: [email protected] or www.fdass.com

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