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The imperative of job creation

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Creating jobs is the number one task for the Nigerian economy and its managers in 2019. It follows from the latest unemployment figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics. Nigeria nurses a high 23% unemployment. It is unacceptable and there must be a collective resolve to change the narrative.

Job creation is a task for the entire economy. It is not for one arm, nor is merely for Government. Government should take the lead through policy with the various tools in the box. Indeed, so many tools available to recommend the government as the key driver of economic growth. Job creation is one of the routes to economic growth.

Enabling environment is a matter of management of the macro economic environment and the micro for the states. It is about policies that are wholesome, creative, realistic and capable of promoting productivity and innovation. It is about using the tools of political economy to cause chain reactions in the economy.

The concern of course is the fact of an economy that is struggling and going deeper into the pain-o-meter. No less a person than President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Nigerians to prepare for more pain. The 2019 budget is already failing even before consideration and appropriation by the National Assembly because the fundaments are wrong.
The contribution of government is to use a mix of monetary and fiscal policies to create the environment for private sector players to create jobs. Job creation strategies include reduced interest rates, increased public works, use of benefits, reduced taxation and more. Economists say it is supply side or trickle-down.

We need it now. In this age, innovation is the main driver of economic growth in most economies. Innovation and start ups are the primary fuel for the growth of many economies today. Nigeria should be articulating policies that would propel increased activity in the start up arena and innovations.

There are many hubs now where young Nigerians are active in the start-up eco-system. From Yabacon to Aba through Awka and Enugu, young ICT and STEM enthusiasts as well as professionals are working hard to produce apps and products that tackle specific problems. Governments at Federal and State levels only need to lend support with policy interventions that would encourage investments in those areas. Offer incentives to enable movement from idea to app to mass market.

In August, the Onitsha 5 Coding Girls brought honour to Nigeria by winning the Technovation Challenge in Silicon Valley. When will the app the young girls developed be available in the market for purchase and download by users in Nigeria? Is there a system and institutions in place to enable the idea to move from laboratory to the mass market? Where is the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and its counterpart in Anambra State to ensure that this happens? Where are the investors to bring it to pass?

These are the kinds of tasks that Governments should undertake. Create a pathway for investors in importation of container loads of stuff to see new vistas in enabling developments in technology translate to real-time products and apps in the market place of Nigeria. We must encourage entrepreneurship in the right direction.

Supply side economics stresses the imperative of high and sustained expenditure on public works. The Federal Government claims it is spending on infrastructure. They should do so much more. The expenditure is too little to effect fundamental change. It is disappointing to see the lack of political will in cutting down the ratio of spend on capital versus recurrent expenditure. It turns to embarrassment reading snippets of what constitutes this recurrent expenditure in a change government. Huge sums on feeding and such inane terms for outright stealing such as N65m for animal conservation, N1billion for travels in the office of Mr President and the sums on feeding. The Presidency has continued to operate a restaurant that serves five-course meals at no charges to both the occupant of the office and the many hangers on. Contrast with the fact that President Barack Obama paid for any extra meals in the White House, as is the standard in most parts of the world.

Why are interest rates so high in this economy? Calling on the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank. Do something to bring down interest rates.

The Federal Government needs to step in to ensure the take-off of NLNG Train 7 and the other two liquefied natural gas projects. Each day we delay causes significant job losses and loss of market share. 2019 should see the actualisation of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill into an Act of the National Assembly. There should be paranoia at all levels of government about unemployment and the need to create jobs. The consequences are getting closer to Government Houses as the Governors of Borno and Katsina recently reported. Banditry, kidnapping and such-like are symptoms of economic dysfunction.

The Executive and Legislature require to make sacrifices for the benefit of Nigeria by cutting the recurrent expenditure in our budgets. Damn too high and unproductive. Transfer half of that sum to expenditure on public works, for a start. More on this job creation challenge. Welcome to 2019.

 

Chido Nwakanma

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