• Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Global competitiveness: Can Nigeria ever win?

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Since 1984, the ranking of Nigeria on any global index has been dismal. Virtually on all global rankings, if you were looking for Nigeria, you may have to start from the bottom, except on the ‘Suffering and Smiling’ index. For many years we had a near permanent place on the bottom of the Corruption Perception index. Sometime in the mid nineties, when the late General Sanni Abaaha was in power, we were ranked the most corrupt Country in the whole wide World. When General  Olusegun Obasanjo came to power and perhaps because of his relationship with Transparency International, our ranking improved. After he set up the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), we improved further. But later, even in his second tenure, we began to stagnate and then began to decline till date. In the latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI) issued by Transparency International we were ranked no 144 out of 166 countries. In 2009 we were in the 130th position. Why are we declining? Can we say Nigeria is sustaining the fight against corruption? Many Nigerians feel that we have dropped our guards in this battle.

On the Ease of doing Business Index ( EBI) where we are no 147 out of 189 Countries this year and its twin, Global Competitiveness Index( GCI), where we are no 120 out of 144 nations, Nigeria has struggled to get things right. From the days of the ‘command and control’ economic management regime of the military when we were regarded as ‘Pariah’ and ‘no go’ area, to the Structural Adjustment regime started by General Ibrahim Babangida, which progressed to Privitization and Commercialization and then became full blown Deregulation in the Obasanjo/Jonathan era, Nigeria in my view has responded to global competitive pressures in some ways. These measures saw our ranking improve somewhat over the last few years. Indeed, I am particularly aware of the deliberate efforts being made by the current Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga and his colleagues in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and in the Economic Management Team ( EMT) to manage our ranking on these indices.

They have worked on the premises that what you cannot measure, you cannot manage and what you cannot manage, you cannot improve. I am aware that they have even invited the rating agencies to come and tell us what criteria they use in the ratings and rankings.  Many have come and discussed with our public sector officials. Indeed the World Economic Forum (WEF) did not only come, but they decided to hold their 2014 Africa Edition of the forum right here in Nigeria. The Forum was held in Abuja 7-9 May 2014, days after the Nyanya bombings.

But that has not stopped us from declining in ranking. In the GCI issued by WEF a few weeks ago, despite holding the Africa Forum in Abuja, and in spite of the federal government granting nearly one week of holidays to Abuja workers, our ranking declined from 115 in 2013 to 120 in 2014. Can we ever win?

In fact, Nigeria in its determination to improve its GCI ranking has set up a National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) to help push the effort to improve Nigeria’s global competitiveness. This came from a suggestion some of us made that we needed to assess ourselves and compare with the global assessment. First, it will enable us to begin to focus on and then manage those factors that will help us measure up to global ranking. Second it will help us know how to eliminate bias and stereotyping in this global ranking business. Because, it sometimes looks like we will never win, no matter how hard we try. 

More importantly, the whole idea of competitiveness is to help us attract investment into our Country. When we look at the Foreign Direct investment inflows (FDI), Nigeria remains the leading destination in Africa. Though there is an overall decline in the volume, but it is still the major destination. And it is not just in oil and gas. In fact, the decline in oil and gas is much steeper and is actually responsible for the overall decline in FDI into Nigeria in the last three years caused primarily by the uncertainties with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Most of the investments are going into Telecoms, Power, other Infrastructure (Road and Rail), Agriculture and into Manufacturing. So what is driving the investment inflow despite our struggle with global competitiveness? We must be doing certain things right or have some inherent or acquired competitive advantages in some areas. We just cannot be uncompetitive all round! So should we not worry about the decline in GCI? 

No, we should worry about what caused the decline. On the GCI score, we were heavily weighed down by Insecurity. This seems to be our albatross. Since 2011, our security situation has continued to deteriorate despite the huge national expenditure. Could we have done better in improving our Security Situation? As a Nation, Yes. Can we do something to change the situation, so that our ranking will improve next year? As a nation yes! I say so because our current security challenge spearheaded by the Boko Haram terrorists who have now graduated from insurgents to occupation army seems to have exceeded what the Federal government alone can handle.

Every day, the matter seems to grow worse. These guys are not only fighting and occupying territories in Borno State; they are now fighting and occupying territories in Adamawa State. It looks like we are gradually slipping into another civil war. Me think, it will take the collective effort of all-Military, Police, Emirs, Politicians, Civilians, both serving and former Public office holders to contain these militants. This is why, I was scandalized by the furore raised by many people especially the APC that the President took Governor Sheriff to Ndjamena to seek for solution to this Boko Haram challenge. I think the President was acting wisely. Even if Governor Modu Sheriff was the person who constructed Boko Haram, I believe he may also have the formula to deconstruct them. It is clear to all, including those who initially supported Boko Haram that the devil has no enduring friend. So we must rather encourage all, saints and sinners to come out. The hypocrisy in the polity is evident and is part of the problem. When governor Sheriff was a ranking member of the APC, all the previous insinuations and accusations against Sheriff meant nothing and he was welcome to come and go where ever he wanted. He has now crossed carpet and he has become persona non grata.

Second area of our major burden on the GCI is in the area of infrastructure. In my view, I think, this Country is really pushing hard in this area. But Power remains our achilles hill. We therefore must pursue the power sector reform roadmap to its logical conclusion. It is clear that the Federal Government cannot just privatize the Generating plants and the distribution companies and do nothing else. They must continue to build plants and then divest to the private sector. Meanwhile substantial new investment is required to modernize transmission. If only we can get power right and achieve daily 12-18 hours of unbroken power supply to most of our cities, our ranking in infrastructure will jump.

  Thirdly, we must keep pushing in all fronts. Our institutions must be strengthened. The major requirement here is that they must be allowed to operate within the ambit of the laws establishing them. Political interference and impunity must be reduced to zero. It is gratifying that our economic management policies and practices are gradually achieving acceptable global standards, so is our financial system. For me, we just must keep our eyes on the ball. Despite the Herculean Security challenge which seems to currently defy all solutions so far applied, all the other matters on the GCI are within our competence to address and I am certain they are being addressed at different levels. Our recent performance in containing the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) is indicative of what can happen when we put the ‘right pegs’ in the ‘right holes’ and allow them to discharge their duties professionally without divisive politics. What is required is total commitment and speed and who knows one day, we shall be like Switzerland or Singapore the top two most globally competitive countries in the World. If Singapore that was in the 3rd World with us in the 60s/ 70s can achieve global competitiveness, Nigeria too can. I believe it; do not tell me that I am dreaming!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa