• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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‘There is need for coordination of key economic policies’

Eze Onyekpere

Eze Onyekpere is the Lead Partner Centre for Social Justice. He spoke HARRISON EDEH on the loopholes in most of the intervention programmes of the Federal Government. He urged the government to target a robust economy that will provide the needed economic drive for the country. Excerpts:

Sir, could you please share your thoughts on why series of interventions of the Federal Government have failed to roll back poverty, despite huge sums of money pumped into such schemes?

Poverty cannot be reduced merely by launching and operating a purported poverty reduction programme. The first issue on poverty reduction should be an understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of poverty and its links with various sectors of the economic, legal, social and political life of the nation. There is need for coordination of key policies including trade, industrial, education, fiscal, monetary, etc. policies for poverty reduction programmes to be effective.

For instance, government cannot be spending money on skills acquisition in trades/sectors where dumped/imported goods and service predominate while expecting the graduates of the skills acquisition to create jobs, add value and reduce poverty.

Education must respond to industry, the needs of society and value addition. Otherwise, we will continue with science without technology and the practical application of scientific knowledge. Secondly, poverty reduction is impossible in an economy that adds little or no value to goods and services, which is import dependent, and where the productivity is very low.

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Further, there must be poverty in a society where the plan, policy budget continuum is treated with contempt and levity; where anyone wakes up and inserts projects into the budget without policy justification. These are few examples of the disconnect between the resources spent and the impact achieved in poverty reduction. The current approach is about throwing money at problems; not solving problems through public expenditure.

How, in your own assessment, have states shared in this blame since most of them lack accurate data of who is employed and who is not?

 

States are following the footsteps of the big Federal Government. There is no special blame for states except that they are not bound by federal examples. They can afford to do better on their own lead.

What is the general take on how a holistic plan could be done on this in line with preparing millions of unemployed Nigerians for the economy of the future?

It is not just a poverty reduction story; it is about getting the economy to work, the wealth creation story, becoming competitive, a destination for tourists, improving the rule of law to attract investors and tourists, repacking our image and new beautiful stories coming out of Nigeria, producing goods and services and increasing value addition and productivity.

It is about improving local content and patronising Nigerians made goods and services; getting Nigerian airlines to benefit from various open skies agreements, having Nigerian shippers befitting from cabotage, etc. It is a whole new story of ingenuity and a merit system where the best and most qualified run the public space, thieves are sent to jail and hypocrisy at the top most level of governance is reduced to the minimum while nepotism and provincialism is related to the background.

The Federal Ministry of Finance is currently preparing a long-term plan for Nigeria amidst the expiration tenure of the current Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), could you share your thoughts on expectations in this long-term plan?

We have been repeating the same mistakes in the last 50 years; just sheer running round the same pole, movement in a barber’s chair which leads to nowhere. If we need to make progress, we must have evidence-led planning, anchored on a national buy-in of stakeholders through massive consultation. This will be followed by meticulous and conscientious implementation. However, I do not see these steps in the current efforts to get a successor to the ERGP.

How could these interventions be interwoven into short medium and long-term framework to ensure it is holistic?

 

It requires deep knowledge and political will by the topmost leadership to craft a holistic framework and to achieve medium and long-term national goals.