By Babs Alasa
THE economy of Nigeria, the â€œGiant of Africa,â€ is currently in a big slumber; and like all giants that have fallen, it is having difficulties getting up.
The economy is in such bad state of health that all major indicators are pointing in the negative direction. Unemployment rate is well over 40 per cent.Â The real sector is in deep recessions, no thanks to the hostile operating environment.
Rather than having investment inflows, the economy is witnessing net outflow of capital to safer and better investment destinations in the West Coast, especially Ghana.
Companies are closing down shops due to high costs of operation. The few that are compelled by circumstances to remain in business, are downsizing operations, thereby exacerbating the nationâ€™s grave unemployment situation.
Furthermore, the inflation rate is well in the double digit level, a consequence of the low productive capacity of the economy and excessive liquidity in the system, fuelled by cheap oil money, which is the mainstay of the economy.
The consequence of all these, is an ever-increasing, sophisticated level of crime rate that the nation has had to contend with.
Make no mistake about it: The nationâ€™s economic predicament was not caused by the current global financial meltdown which most economies are already overcoming.
Rather, it is a consequence of the lingering problem of visionless leadership, coupled with high level corruption in government, which the nation has had to grapple with over the years, and which till date is showing no signs of abating.
Otherwise, how can one justify the epileptic power supply and perennial importation of petroleum products by a country reputed to be the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the entire world?
Like all past administrations before it, President Yarâ€™ Aduaâ€™s regime at its inception, decided to tackle headlong the cancerous problem bedevilling the economy.Â In this regard, it came up with the Seven-Point Agenda with the major features being: Agriculture and food security,Â energy and power sector, education, land reform, National security, health, Niger Delta, etc.
Unfortunately, however, with over two years of President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s administration, and the implementation of the celebrated Seven-Point Agenda, the nationâ€™s economy has shown no visible signs of recovery.Â Rather, its state of health is going from bad to worse with only revenue from crude oil sustaining its livelihood.
Thus, when the price of oil collapsed in the international market recently, the economy was forced down its knees, thereby adversely affecting the benchmark price for the 2009 budget and subsequent allocations to all tiers of government.
This, no doubt, informed the question directed at Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi during his screening by the Senate about his opinion on the Seven-Point Agenda.
Sanusi, a professional to the core, did not hesitate to advocate a reduction of the Seven-Point Agenda to three – a suggestion that caused panic in the Presidency, forcing the government to come out in strong defence of the inglorious Seven-Point Agenda.
Without stating the obvious, we donâ€™t need a soothsayer or a Babalawo to tell us that the Seven-Point Agenda cannot and will not work.
It is a known fact that, what is urgently needed to be addressed in Nigeria today, are the:*Collapsed infrastructural facilities, especially our dilapidated network of roads
*Epileptic power supply
*Ailing educational and near comatose health institutions.
Once the above issues are effectively addressed, then the remarkable entrepreneurialÂ ingenuity, for which the average Nigerian is reputed for worldwide, will begin to impact on the economy and revive it from its current slumber.
Since Nigeria is aspiring to be like the Asian Tigers and ambitiously wants to be among the 20 biggest economies by the year 2020, it is instructive to advise our economic planners to emulate the fiscal and monetary policy measures adopted by those countries to achieve their present economic feat.
The first thing they did to make their economies the preferred global investment destinations, was the establishment of functional industrial estates and export processing zones, with efficient infrastructural and social amenities, favourable for investment undertakings.Â All that investors needed to do was to bring in their capital, as all other facilities were already in place.
As added incentives to promote investments, the Asian Tigers decided to stimulate the growth of small and medium scale enterprises as the engine of growth for their respective economies through the establishment of credit guaranty schemes.
The schemes which effectively hedged the banks against any risks inherent in funding investment activities, was the tonic behind the economic miracle of the Asian Tigers, and not mere policy rhetorics for which Nigerian governments are renown.
Mr. Alasa, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.