The 15th Nigeria Economic Summit organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) will hold December 15 to 17, with the group saying that the economic scorecard of Nigeria will be on focus. Dr. Doyin Salami, chairman, planning committee, NESG was in Vanguard on a sensitisation visit. Excerpts
WHAT would you say was achieved at NES 14 and what are the expectations of the forth coming summit?
One of the biggest set backs to the summit was the advice that was given to the government to reshuffle its structure. And shortly thereafter, we were disappointed because what we had expected was not what we got from the re-shuffling.
In last yearâ€™s, we had expected the president to come for an closing session, but he had to leave for Akwa-Ibom State where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a meeting that he had to attend. Looking down memory lane the government has actually taken some recommendations of the NESG. All the recommendations may not have been taken but we have moved from where we were to something we can point to.
We have seen some measure of deregulation of the economy, we have seen private capital in the system.Â In preparing for this yearâ€™s summit, we are reviewing what has happened in the last ten summits, one of the sessions that will hold at the summit is the stewardship report session, where we will look into the economic scorecard of the country.
Basically, we would be looking at the last ten summits to see those recommendations that the summit had made and which ones the government had acceded to.
What impact will you say the summit has made on the economy?
In 2001-2002, Nigeria made the debut in the world economic forum competitiveness ranking, and in that year, there were 75 countries, and in ranking Nigeria was number 55.
But in terms of the macro-economic environment, stability of the macro-economic environment, Nigeria was ranked 55 out of 75. The economic summit, if for nothing else, has been making a lot of steady noise about the need for consistency, stability, the need for an economic environment that, at least, holds the promise and prospect.
When you look at the current global ranking in terms of macro-economic environment, Nigeria is ranked 20th out of 135 countries. I am not saying itâ€™s all as a result of government policies. But we have earned a lot of oil revenue which has brought stability to the exchange rate and the global economic environment has been favourable to Nigeria.
But notwithstanding all of these, the NESG thinks we can simply say that the noise about economic stability and economic environment are areas where some successes have been recorded.Â It will also be useful to think that the summit has made a lot of noise about the need for an efficient economy and, for us, there are two elements to efficiency. One is the liberalisation of access to economic opportunities while the other is a reduction of or streamlining of regulation. What are the simple things to regulate? Which will be done in such a way, that it does not strangulate initiatives. A look at how Nigeria has fared shows that the country has not fared too badly, though there are things which had not been done, but we can take the classic as an example – telecommunication.
Today, we are talking of 138 million lines, all which happened since 2001 when it was deregulated. Before then, there was only one telephone company, NITEL, but today, there are a lot of them. We are not talking of telephone companies alone, but also of GSM, CDMA and the various ISPs that do internet. We are talking of so many technology driven and related companies.
Again, in this particular instance, it has not been so bad and there are other areas that have began to show signs that they might come up if we can continue to impress it on and convince the government that this is the way to go. An example is infrastructure programming. In the last 20 years, there has been a move towards public private partnership as a new initiative and structures have been created. For Nigeria, we are just about to start coming to it. If you look, for example, where I work which is Aja, the concession of Lekki to Epe, I understand the value is $400 million which is the largest of such concessions in the sub-Sahara Africa, and that is private money. All of us complained that the domestic wing of the airport is becoming too small, but again, that is private money, not government money. So, there are some areas where we are beginning to see some private sector developments and we need to continue to hammer on this.
What is the main focus of the 15th NESG Summit?
The fifteenth summit is going to concentrate on how to bridge the implementation gap and the theme is: Scorecard of Nigeria in economic development: Bridging the implementation gap. So what we would be doing is to seek solutions to bridging the yearning gap between policiesâ€™ formulation and implementation.
First of all, we are in the process of completing an economic scorecard for Nigeria, and the NESG thinks this is the way to go. At the summit, we will objectively look at things and come up with something that we can, overtime, go back to.
So, we are coming up with an economic scorecard that will be unveiled at the summit. Abinitio, we thought we did not have good ideas, but we have, though the implementation of these ideas has been haphazard or non-effective.
But the question remains â€˜how do we bridge this implementation gap?â€™ What we have sought to do in this coming summit is to bring those who are responsible for implementation so we can look at these things together and remove the implementation gap. This means that we spend money but we do not see the impact, we make policies but no impact, we train people and can not feel their impact.
The summit is from December 15 to 17, and on the 14th, there is a pre-summit session which involves the civil servants. For the first time, we are bringing the head of service and the Body of Permanent Secretaries to the summit so that, as a group, we can discuss those things that have been the challenges of policy implementation.
It could be the issue of capacity as far as the civil service is concerned or the issue of direction, so this is an opportunity for us to engage and discuss. For the opening of the summit, Mr. President has graciously agreed to attend. The aim of the dialogue is to discuss what the scorecard should do.
What are the plans of the president and his administrators? He will be Â Â Â joined in that session by Gbenga Adefaye, editor-in-chief, Vanguard Media, governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Udughan, Mrs. Okonji Iweala, managing director World Bank, and other Nigerian professionals in Diaspora.
Aside the challenges listed earlier, what other challenges are being faced by NESG?
There are two challenges. For us, we would like to see a private sector-led development of Nigeriaâ€™s infrastructure, which is why I said there is a need for the liberalisation of our economy.
One of the things that we will probably be looking at the policy commission level is engagement on Nigerianâ€™s energy, not just power requirement, but a general energy policy which we hope we will try and feel the direction of creating a framework that allows and encourages private sector participation.
I was reading in one of the dailies where various sums have been bandied about on how much the government needs to spend on power, but all of these are huge sums of money. And so, when that already exists, we need additional resources from somewhere else.
However, you cannot get those resources without creating a framework that convinces the owners of the resources that the resources would be used the way it is intended, and that government has to give clear direction and incentives for private participation in some of the projects that have already been battered via the implementation. That is the nature of the engagement that the NESG is saying.