By Babajide Komolafe
THE two events were unrelated but had a critical linkage. The first in the afternoon was a pre-annual general meeting media briefing by one of the nation’s 24 banks.
The second, in the evening, was an interactive session between President Goodluck Jonathan and the business community.
The interactive session was called by the President to discuss with the business community what government must do, after the May 29 inauguration, to actualise the Vision 202020, which is to make Nigeria one of the world’s twenty biggest economies by 2020.
Jeffrey Sachs, the renowned Professor of Economics and Special Assistant to the Secretary General of the United Nations, set the tone for the interactive session with a presentation that reiterated his faith in ability of Nigeria to achieve the vision, and what must be done to achieve it.
He said: “I have been betting on Nigeria since ten years ago,” noting that while Nigeria has been making lots of progress in the last decade and thus proving him right, the next ten years would be a new decade for Nigeria, and the greatest decade for the country to experience breakthrough and transform its economy.
For this to happen, Sachs said Nigeria must double its economy by 2020, double income per person and double per capita income. This, he said is achievable because the country has been undergoing economic reforms. It has the benefit of the beginning of the term of the President, which offers historic opportunity to start with a plan and a direction.
And most importantly, development in the global economy particularly in Asia, offers huge benefits for the export products of the country.
He, however, highlighted four critical factors that would guarantee the achievability of the Vision 202020. These are: Integrated rural development, integrated urban development; Infrastructural development and population control. These factors must be combined with a hugely diversified economy, integrated plan with budget and on his integrated economic team.
The President, on his part, believes that to achieve Vision 202020, the nation must be transformed. “I believe that to achieve our vision, we need transformative thinking both by government, business and Nigerian citizens. To demonstrate his commitment to the transformation of the country, he unveiled an agenda with the goal of transforming domestic production, creating jobs, and diversifying the export base of the country.
The thrust of the agenda is to create jobs by discouraging imports of goods that are either being produced or can be produced in the country.
He said for this purpose and among other things, only businesses that are developing value-chains, building needed infrastructure, expanding domestic production and creating jobs would be considered for incentives like import subsidies and waivers. Stressing the need for the support of the private sector to actualise the transformation agenda, President Jonathan said: “I seek agents and organisations that are willing and able to partner with government in transforming domestic production, creating jobs and diversifying our export base.”
Between the recommendations of Professor Sachs and the President’s transformation agenda, there is clearly so much to do and that must be done for Nigeria to achieve Vision 202020. Also considering the plethora of socio-economic problems confronting the country, identifying the starting point of transforming Nigeria into one of the 20 biggest economies can be very difficult and daunting.
The response of Chief Kola Jamodu, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, however, provided the solution to the problem. While pledging the support of the organised private sector, Jamodu said the sector requires one thing from the President and the government and that is consistency. And therein is the link between the bank’s pre-AGM briefing and the Presidential interactive session.
When confronted by one of the journalists on whether his bank had the vision of moving to the top five banks or was comfortable remaining in the middle ranks as it has been all this while, the managing director/chief executive of the bank said it was never the vision of the bank to be a middle ranking bank but that its growth plans and agenda have been frustrated by frequent changes in government policies.
Like the bank, the Nigerian economy has been a victim of inconsistent government policies which have persistently frustrated the realisation and manifestation of the huge and immense potentials of the Nigerian nation, businesses and individuals.
Thus, if Nigeria would achieve Vision 202020, by transforming its economy, above and beyond the optimism and scholarly recommendation of Professor Sachs and the transformation agenda of President Jonathan, the country and the economy needs consistency of leadership and policies.