BusinessDay

Why economy must be at the heart of the campaigns

In every election cycle since 2011, “fixing Africa’s largest economy” topped agenda of presidential candidates’ manifestoes but there is yet to be a significant change in the state of the Nigerian economy, instead, huge and piling debts, forex scarcity, and inflation prevails.

State of the Nigerian economy

Food prices are skyrocketing on a daily basis, unemployment is high, and consequently, the standard of living is falling.

If you are an industrialist, your concerns are the high cost of capital, low liquidity in the foreign exchange market so much so that a naira now exchanges for the US dollar at the parallel market at over N720. With inflation eroding the purchasing power of consumers, no entrepreneur will be bold enough to embark on expansion.

In the agriculture sector, farmers could not access their farmlands due to insecurity, which also affects firms in the logistics business. In short, there is hardly anyone living in Nigeria whether rich or poor that does not feel the pains of the current economic crisis. And these among many other factors are the reasons the economy must be at the centre of the forthcoming 2023 general election.

Nigerians would want to hear from the candidates how they hope to address the issues that have led to the economic crisis in the country.

Since 2015, the Nigerian economy has entered into a recession twice, dashing hopes of many who voted the current government into office with firm belief that they would make the much awaited difference. But that was not to be.

The recent growth trajectories of 3.11 percent and 3.54 percent at the end of the first and second quarters of 2022 are fragile. Agriculture, which has played a crucial role in Nigeria’s return to positive growth rate, recorded mixed results. Crop production and forestry recorded a positive growth rate, livestock and fishing declined.

Despite the Nigerian economy being a monoproduct with heavy reliance on the revenue from crude oil export to finance a sizable part of governments’ projects, the sector has been an underperformer. The sector which comprises mining and quarrying, crude petroleum and natural gas witnessed a decline in productivity.

This may not be unconnected with the high rate of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in that sector. According to Timipre Sylva, minister of state for petroleum resources, Nigeria loses not less than 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, estimated at about $1.9 billion daily.

Other sectors that grew at half year include oil refining, chemical and pharmaceutical products, electricity, gas steam and air conditioning, road transportation, telecommunications, among others. But other sectors witnessed a decline in productivity indicating the fragility of the growth at half year 2022.

Expectations from campaign promises on the economy

The interest of Nigerians now is not about the usual bogus claims by aspirants that they will create jobs, ensure security, and address the depreciating value of the naira. Rather, it is more about how they will achieve those promises.

“For instance, in the last presidential election, which was in 2019, they said we want change. What type of change? It wasn’t defined except saying that we will be giving a particular amount of salary to people that are not employed,” Tobi Reuben Adetunji, a political analyst, said.

Findings from a recently conducted poll by Bloomberg showed that 41 percent of the respondents indicated economy and jobs as factors that will influence the choice of their presidential candidate. This is not surprising because the Nigerian economy has not been able to produce inclusive growth in the last decade.

Read also: How Uber, Bolt, others help Nigerian drivers survive tough economy

Other factors listed in the Bloomberg survey included corruption, 31 percent, national security, 16 percent and food prices, 7 percent.

‘All is needed is political will’ “The economy is not too difficult to solve. The elected politicians do not have the political will to make a difference,” Afolabi Oriyomi, a research and Investment Analyst at PFI Capital Limited, said.

“Fixing the issues would require politicians to step on their toes. For instance, putting a halt to the subsidy regime will attract responses from those who have benefitted hugely from the market inefficiency. Also, those who benefit massively from the multiple foreign exchange markets will respond negatively to any harmonisation attempts.”

Oriyomi added that “Elections will decide who will make policies for the country, impacting the economy. These elected candidates will decide on the policies that will be implemented. Therefore, the candidates’ antecedents, positions, and views on the economy must be scrutinised because if elected candidates appoint ministers and advisers, the decision-making lies with them.”

Also responding, Adetunji said: “I want to believe that we don’t have a special economic problem; we just lack leaders who have the tenacity or the working knowledge to navigate the liberation of our economy.”

“The base of the matter is these people who have chosen to use public choice theory to appeal our people about our economy, do they really know what they say or how to go about it? Look at the president of the nation, how economically savvy is the president?”

“Look at the economic situation we found ourselves in, look at the rate of dollars, look at the price of how high the price of household goods have become and it has not been addressed because they don’t have practical experience. But we are waiting for their campaign, we want to look at what they will say again.”

Why do politicians, after being voted into power, fail in their promises to Nigeria?

“The response to that is they never truly had a very germane intention because if the burden of the people had become their own burden, there is no how they will soon forget”, Mark Idiahi, convener, Future Leadership Conference, said.

“For any leader to be effective and result-oriented, the person has to embody the burden. The leader has to embody the burden of the people that he once had before he ascended the position of leadership,” Idiahi said.

What should Nigerians pay attention too as politicians campaign?

“As the campaigns proceed, Nigerians should look forward to people who have the capacity to translate the theoretical rhetoric into actual solutions economically. The economy of a nation still remains the basis of index that Nigerians should look focus more on; not insecurity because when economic problem is resolved, insecurity, secession agitations will no longer be an issue,” the political analyst said.

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