• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Refocusing the presidential debate to the economy

Nigerians canvass change in voting pattern in 2023

Media products consumers have been treated to a variety of viewpoints on what the political gladiators have to tell us on their diagnosis of the problems of the Nigerian economy and how they plan to tackle such problems decisively. Some public affairs analysts have demonstrated exasperation at the downgrading of economic issues in a presidential debate in a country like ours. What is to be done?

We propose to argue that the gladiators in the presidential contest could use the extra six weeks provided by the change in the election timetable to redirect the presidential debate to the economy by properly clarifying several issues that are daily thrown up in the media.

A summary of the issues may read as follows:

Issue 1: Lack of capacity in government for quantitative policy analysis.

This is required to reveal sensitivities of variables for decision-making in the country. Economists have identified the consequences of the lack of critical capacity for policymaking in government to include the possibility of monetary and fiscal policies not being properly coordinated to achieve desired results.

“Part of the reason is that we do not have quantitative models to determine policy sensitivities of various measures being taken, as to their complementarities or the possibility of their cancelling each other out,” a former minister and economist told BusinessDay recently.

“We do not know the time-lags required by the policy measures being taken by CBN and the finance ministry to play out. No models. Just largely rule-of-thumb and common sense. This makes it difficult for people outside government to make meaningful contributions to policy debate within the context of participatory and inclusive governance,” he added.

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Issue 2: Harvesting the benefits of the GDP rebasing exercise.

This exercise which has made the Nigerian economy the largest in Africa by GDP (some $510bn in 2013) showed that our economy is now a services-led economy that has no manufacturing sector; at 7 percent of GDP, manufacturing can be described as non-existent compared to Nigeria’s peers. This emphasizes the import-dependence of the Nigerian economy and the persistent pressures on the domestic currency which recently forced devaluation on the monetary authorities.

Issue 3: Diversification of the economy.

Successive administrations in the country have yearned for a diversified economy without taking concrete steps to achieve this national objective. What will the next president do differently to diversify the nation’s sources of foreign exchange?

Issue 4: Updating top level documents in view of the rebasing exercise.

Economic forecasting is now a near impossible task in Nigeria because of the GDP rebasing exercise. Similarly, the exercise now makes it necessary to update all top-level policy documents to make them useful. What are the concrete steps the next president will take to achieve this?

Issue 5: Institutionalization of strategic planning.

Nigeria’s sitting president has not paid adequate attention to economic planning. What steps will the next president put in place to correct this anomaly?

Issue 6: Job creation.

The phenomenon of growth without commensurate job creation has been a feature of the Nigerian economy for decades. Targets that President Jonathan set for himself in the Transformation Agenda document have not been met. A concrete machinery for job creation does not seem to exist beyond tokenism. How will the next president halt creation of jobs by Nigeria in other countries through importation of toothpicks and similar products while increasing unemployment in the country?

Weneso Orogun