BusinessDay

160 days to polls, Buhari sets up another advisory group on economy

...Presidential candidates contact World Bank, IMF on Nigeria’s economic woes

With less than a hundred and sixty days before the next election, President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed yet another high-level committee to advise him on the myriad of challenges facing Nigeria which unresolved could make his tenure the most miserable for Nigerians.

The new committee is made up of Doyin Salami, the president’s chief economic adviser, who holds a doctorate in economics but is already head of another presidential advisory council, deputy on the economic advisory council, Sokoto state governor Aminu Tambuwal who is said is to represent the governors’ forum.

Other members are finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, Trade and Investment minister, Adeniyi Adebayo, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and vice president Yemi Osinbajo whom the ruling party judged unworthy to succeed the president.

This new committee will review Nigeria’s economic woes and propose measures to the president to remediate the situation. It is however unclear how this measure will satisfy critics who say Buhari’s failure to act stems from lacking the courage to take difficult and far-reaching decisions as head of state.

According to Atedo Peterside, founder of ANAP foundation, “the truth is that the bulk of the problems confronting Nigeria are obvious. Everybody knows the problems. We all know about banditry, terrorism, crude oil theft, unaffordable size of the federal government, cost of governance generally, petrol subsidy which we cannot afford, and low business caused by a variety of things including investors withdrawing from Nigeria.”

Explaining, Peterside said, “those are things that somebody who studies O/L can understand. So, it is not something for which you need phenomenal knowledge or intelligence to understand the problems of Nigeria. Interestingly also, the bulk of the solutions to our problems are obvious and straightforward. The first thing that is called for is sincerity. The second thing is courage, and both have been lacking in our leaders for a long time.”

Nigeria faces a severe foreign exchange crisis in the region of $2bn shortage monthly and which has seen the exchange rate jump as high as N700 for one US dollar as well as the steady fall in the volume of foreign direct investment coming to the country.

There is also a gross fiscal crisis reflected dramatically in the inability of total retained earnings of the federal government to cover the cost of servicing the country’s debt and which is worsened by what some call a senseless insistence to continue with a bogus petrol subsidy regime and seek to hand over its resolution to the incoming administration.

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Bismarck Rewane, a leading economist who is a member of the president’s economic advisory council estimates that the subsidy bill of near $16bn this year will be about double the entire expenditure of all the 36 state governments.

Report of this new committee came as it was revealed that some of the leading presidential candidates for the February 2023 elections have been consulting officials of the World Bank and the International monetary fund to understand the depth of Nigeria’s economic mess and how it can be reversed if and when they are elected.

According to one source who spoke to BusinessDay, “yes some of the candidates have reached out to the multilateral organisations and it could be because they are anxious to understand the truth about the country’s economic difficulties.”

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