By Peter Egwuatu & Emmanuel Elebeke
THE stakeholders from private and public sectors, yesterday, moved that the incoming ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be mandated to declare their assets as a step toward having a transparent governance in line with the policy of the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
They also moved for early preparation of 2017 budget and legislative planning to ensure that the budget is passed timely to allow for effective and efficient implementation of programmes that would help accelerate economic growth and development.
The participants at the summit called for structural changes in the economy and the need to have analytical formation of policies that should lead to growth and development of the nation in a holistic manner, just as they demanded for the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB to accelerate the growth of the petroleum industry.
Speaking at the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit Group,NESG which came to an end yesterday in Abuja, with the concluding session on “ National a Budget Framework to aid Competitiveness, Inclusive Growth and Sustainability” Former Minister of Finance and Deputy Chairman National Planning Commission, Shamsuddeen Usman said “ compulsory declaration of assets by all public servants serving at all levels of government, particularly, the legislature and judiciary must be made”.
Shamsudeen, who threw the challenge to the audience at the summit said “ the call became necessary for public servants to make their assets public due to the moral burden on them as civil servants of the people, particularly at this period of economic downturn in the country.
“I challenge all public servants to join the cue with President Mohammadu Buhari in declaring your assets in this moment of economic difficulty facing the nation as a show of your support for transparency and anti-corruption. I was one of the two ministers that did it under late President Yar’ Adua’s government, including the President himself. I expect all public servants to do the same including the National Assembly if we are serious with the anti-corruption war.”
Early preparation of 2017 budget
He also called on the federal government to consider early budgeting plan to forestall imminent delay in 2016 budget presentation and legislative consideration and stressed the need for the planners to do detailed and analytical work on the budget before the public presentation.
“There is need for early budgeting. In US, budget is submitted nine months before legislative consideration and with this; they do not experience difficulties as we do. This will enable government look into all the policy and legal implications before consideration.
Government should start 2017 budget very early at least by March, so that it can carry the National Assembly along, so that by 2017, we will begin to have a proper budget system.”
Structural and analytical policy formulation
“I think there is need for analytical and strategic framework in budget planning, which I know underpins government actions in the execution of budget. This we must take serious, if we want to get it right” the former minister added.
The Former Minister further charged the organizers of the economic summit (NSEG) to come up with strong statement on anti-corruption war by compelling all its company partners to follow the United Nations Global Accountability Pact and Clean Bill Initiatives, if it hopes to assist government in changing the rot in the Nigerian system and boost investors confidence in the system.
According to him “The NESG will be losing opportunity without coming up with a strong statement on asset declaration. That is the kind of expectation from private sector, discouraging member companies from taking bribes in doing business.
“I think, what NESG should do is to compel its member companies to sign the UN Global Accountability Pact, particularly the Nigerian business community. Also, they should compel them sign the Clean Bill Initiative as partners. This will boost Nigerian confidence for foreigners wanting to do business in Nigeria”.
He challenged the National Planning Commission, NPC, Secretary to take the reports to government. Everybody is looking up to government, what is private sector doing to support anti-corruption war. I call for every minister, national assembly members to declare their assets. Though, it is not a constitutional requirement but a requirement of morality.
Restructure the economy now, Akabueze tells FG
Former Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Lagos State, Mr. Ben Akabueze in his presentation at the Summit, called on the Federal Government to restructure the nation’s present economic structure if it hopes to achieve its economic change agenda.
Akabueze, cited the Lagos State example said the need for structural change in the nation’s economy cannot be overemphasized, considering the difficult situation the nation’s economy presently finds itself.
According to him “the present economic structure must give way for a scalable and sustainable economic structure that would spur wealth creation, job opportunities and increase in capital projects”.
He contended that government must change from the present economic structure to boost the lean earnings coming into the federation accounts and ensure proper spending on the available resources.
“I think we need structural change in planning the economy. In doing that, government must plan for economic stimulus for Nigerian business community, if the economy must grow. There must be new structure that will encourage rapid economic growth and revenue earnings for Nigeria to get right. That is what we did in Lagos.”
The former Lagos planner also said that government must be prepared to offer economic stimulus to the business community for the nation to experience rapid economic growth.
He said the business community is in dare need of government intervention to drive their budding businesses, which he considered imperative for them to expand their enterprises for overall growth of the economy.
FG already preparing budget for 2016- Bassey Ekpeyong
In his own speech, Mr. Bassey Ekpeyong, Secretary of the National Planning Commission, said “we are in the presentation of the 2016 budget and the medium term plan for 2016 and 2020. The Presentation is arranged in four sessions as follows: the introduction, the macro-economic framework and broad policy thrust and priority programmes of the present government, and the role expected of the private sector.
“On the introduction, we asked ourselves, why medium term plan. It is relevant because it impacts on the discussions we have been having here for the past two days, namely, Competitiveness, Inclusive growth and national development.
It is the requirement to facilitate effective growth and development and consistent with the aspiration of change agenda of the current administration.
“Nigeria faces a dual task of trying to ensure high economic growth and ensuring that the growth is inclusive and sustainable. Prior to 2015, we witnessed the longest growth of accelerated GDP, which led to our emergence as the 21st largest economy in the 2014.
However, this growth is yet to address unemployment and growth in poverty rate. The GDP growth has declined from the 6.2 percent average in 2014, to 3.96 percent in the first and second quarter of the present year running, largely on the account of dwindling oil prices and revenue decline.
But, it should be put on record that previous medium term plan had tried also to address the issue of competitiveness, but because of the missing link in the operationalisation of the Medium Term Plan. There is a dis-alignment between the budget and medium term plan; we could not achieve much of that.
Lessons From other Countries
“What lessons can we learn from other countries, that has been consistent with their planning processes. For instance, countries like Malaysia has done 45 years in their medium term plan, India has gone 55 years, Singapore 40 years and Nigeria has done 15 years. Nigeria has done just 15 years. Looking at these countries, the Medium Term Framework has impacted on per capita GDP, Poverty incidences, Global Competitiveness Index, and inequality index.
If we look out for GDP grading since 1975, Malaysia was $808 per head, Singapore $250,and Nigeria $450. By 2015, due to consistency of planning, Malaysia moved from that position from $808 to $10, 000 and more per capita income. Indonesia moved from $1500 to $3400, and Nigeria after doing 15 years, was able to move from $450 to $2700 in 2015.
The lesson is that if Nigeria has been consistent with its 15 years of consistent planning, we would have grown better like the other countries cited above.
“The current effort is in ensuring strategic plans in achieving inclusiveness and competitiveness. If we look back, in the 70s and the 80s, we would notice that much of the infrastructure, as we have them now, is within the period of the first, second, and third implementation of the National development Plan.
For instance, the Lagos Ibadan Expressway, the deep sea ports, and other infrastructure we can boast of are done within the National Infrastructure Development Plan.
“It is in this context that the current administration has embarked on reforming budgetary process that would allow us go back to those days that would enable us plan and see what we are planning for.
We are developing a National Planning framework that would align with medium term plan. That is why we are working closely with the budget office of the Federation, in preparation of 2016 budget and the medium term framework of 2016 -2020. I think this would be sustained in achieving a sustainable growth and development.
Budget 2016 will be policy driven
“The budget as explained by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibajo would be policy driven, and has to be done within the framework of a plan and zero-based budgeting, where we have to look at the need and we have to cost properly and ensure that we have value for money. The items that would be captured in the budget are those that are addressing the core thrust of the government’s policy. The time frame for this is November.
After the budget, we move into the 2015, medium term framework, and we would be focusing on macro-economic objectives, in ensuring stability in the Macro-economy that would lead to a conducive environment for growth with target on development.
We would also be looking at fostering broadbased inclusive growth, and developing resources on issue based targets focusing on health, education, research and development, and enhancing revenue mobilisation for effective development and growth”.
Strategies to be adopted include institutional reforms, in core areas of financial management and utilisation of credible monitoring and evaluation system, which fiscal responsible planning would be central to it.
“We need to grow revenue to sustainable level, increase efficiency and accountability with the TSA, GIFNIS, and increase capital expenditure and forging an atitudinal change.
The key assumptions that would be used on 2016 Plans and the Medium Term Framework would be based on: Global Output assumptions, to population growth assumptions. These are figures that would actually translate to the amounts, the values we shall be looking at.
“We shall also look at crude oil benchmarks, and expected output result.
Another thing we are looking at is the real GDP projections. We projected 4.7 percent in 2016 ,with expected rise to 5.09 percent in 2018 and 5.21 percent in 2020.
The measures to sustain faster growth also include investments in electricity and human capacity development among others. Another strategy is to also to measure the targets that we have set for economic indicators. We would also be watching out for proper re-alignment of the budget system with the National development plan to ensure we are on course.
“The six areas of thrust for us include: Economic and Social Development, structured governance environment, in addition to states and regional development. We would also be targeting economic diversification while re-aligning with the states in their areas of competitive advantage” he noted.
NPC should enhance policy formulation-Ayo Teriba
In his own contribution, Dr. Ayo Teriba, a renowned economist said” the NPC should enhance its policy formulation. Budget 2016 should be unique as it is going to be the first budget from the new government. The government no doubt inherited a budget driven crisis. The 2015 budget was reckless as it only concentrated more on expenditure and less on revenue. So the 2016 budget should be strengthened. The new government should be able to tell us what have been realized in the course of blocking leakages so far. A revenue constrained government is not the best for the economy and especially for the government that wants to do well.
“ The telecoms worked well in this country not because there was money in the economy but because of good policy and determination. This government should be able to identify which sectors that are doing well and the ones not doing well so as to be able to revitalize the ones not doing well.
The 2016 budget is a good opportunity for the new government to communicate on what they are going to do. We would like to know what they are doing to fix the crisis linked budget. We need to boost medium to long term capital inflows that would strengthen our economy.”
NESG will follow up recommendations-Kyari
Meanwhile, the Chairman of NESG, Mr. Kyari Abba Bukar has assured that the recommendations at the summit would be followed up to ensure that government implement most of the recommendations.
In his words” we are happy that the Vice President assured us that government is going to look at the reports critically and act on them. We are happy with the new government in its resolve to tackle corruption and drive transparency”.