Nigeria has remained a largely mono-product economy despite promises by successive governments to intensify efforts to achieve economic diversification. The result has been a chequered economic history that has swung quite widely between periods of low economic growth and those of high growth, mimicking international oil prices and the general global economic swing. A sustained policy of economic diversification would have sheltered the Nigerian economy from some of the more violent global swings, especially between the years 1983-5 and 2015 -18 – the two periods when the Nigerian economy officially entered into recession. In the last three years, fundamental structural problems owing from earlier failures to diversify rapidly have combined by policy failures by the incumbent government to yield an utterly battered economy.
At the Alternative Party of Nigeria, we find the Nigerian job numbers appalling. According to recent Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, far more people have lost jobs than those who gained jobs. Many key economic sectors took a hit after oil prices plunged. But even more collapsed after the current government signaled that it had no new solutions to the challenge, and that it instead was pursuing policies that compounded whatever problems it met on the ground. Failure to present and implement a coherent economic blueprint caused investors to take their business elsewhere. Such businesses took jobs with them when they left Nigeria. Countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana, and Kenya are the ultimate beneficiaries of a dampened Nigerian economy. Foreign Direct Investments in those countries for the past year were over 5 percent. Nigeria, on the other hand, has recorded abysmally poor growth numbers with the haunting possibility of even less growth, according to new estimates. The Central Bank itself has sounded the alarm that we may slide back into recession after barely just climbing out of one.
Programmes inherited from successive governments to boost jobs have either been abandoned or poorly executed. And although there has been some efforts by the current government to create jobs, such efforts have proved insufficient. Even more factories have shut down as adverse exchange policies have hampered their access raw materials and equipments. Low Manufacturing Capacity Utilization (at below 55%) has kept the productivity of surviving industries inadequate to meet the needs of the Nigerian market.
Gross Domestic Product figures have generally trended downwards, underscoring that the nation’s economy has stagnated in the past few years. Coming from a country once used to seeing growth figures that topped 6 percent on average, it is easy to blame the situation entirely on oil prices. But the growth figures are so dismal and fallen so low (2.4% in 2016 and – 2.9 in 2017) that they warrant a closer look. At start of the current government in 2015, it took up to five months for the cabinet to be nominated and confirmed. For a country like Nigeria for whom public spending makes a considerable size of the economy, such delays dragged the economy into recession than falling oil prices did.
Nigeria’s debt has ballooned in the last three years. In fact more foreign debt has been undertaken by the current dispensation than the sum of all debt incurred in the previous 16 years. When viewed as a ratio to our GDP, our debt sustainability has been called into question. Experts have sounded the alarm that piling up debts without commensurate investments in infrastructure and in reforms to support greater productivity will create a drag on our economic growth and burden to generations unborn. We could be walking into another debt trap with our eyes wide open. It is reminiscent of the days when we were indebted to the Paris Club. After a lot of efforts and sacrifices to pay the excruciating interests of the Paris Club loan, Nigeria was able to secure debt pardon. We have so far not spent the borrowed money on the critical infrastructure that we ought to.
Successive governments have been unsuccessful in diversifying the economy despite promises to do so. Agriculture has always been the preferred route to diversification of the Nigerian economy. And yet, it was only in the last 15 years that real efforts to build necessary infrastructure and implement appropriate policy began. Those efforts have proved too little, too late. A staggering quantity of food produced locally still goes to waste because of inadequate storage and processing facilities. Too much of our food are imported from countries with even less arable lands. Agricultural production in Nigeria has remained mostly subsistent and has not evolved sufficiently to cover the needs of her burgeoning population. That has to change if we are to become agriculturally self sufficient in the coming decade. More targeted spending and policy action by government has to focus on building the critical infrastructure necessary to support commercial scale agriculture and upgrading the skills of our farmers so they can use modern techniques, developing the agriculture value chain more aggressively than has been done in the last decade to attract new, younger participants to the industry, as well huge private capital to fund the research, production, packaging and distribution segments of the industry.
As a party, we shall embark on full development of the industrial sector by intervening in areas like the cement, steel, iron, ore, textile, food processing industries to generate employment opportunities to millions of our people.
We shall create legal frame work that will seek to improve local content; Create access to credit facilities to the operators in the real sectors; give tax incentives to cottage industries and provide incentives to micro-finance institutions to support local industries. In addition, We shall facilitate constructive collaboration between SMEs and the financial institutions to aid business growth and development.
Overall, we are fully conscious of the fact that a wholistic economic management approach will be needed to hold down inflation, fix our budget deficit, and foster economic prosperity and development. Th
We shall muster the political will needed to commit to appropriate reforms.