The 2015 edition of the annual Nigeria Econo-mic Summit kicked off on Monday with an array of private sector chieftains and government officials led by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, with the focus on how Nigeria can make the tough choices necessary to over the challenge of achieving inclusive growth and global competitiveness. In this report, Peter Egwuatu & Emmanuel Elebeke, present highlights of proceedings from the first day of the Summit.
The annual Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) is organised by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning. The last two summits focused on specific sectors. For example, the Summit in 2013, developed key recommendations and outcomes to reposition the Agricultural sector as a business to diversify the economy, while 2014 Summit focused on Education and was themed “Transforming Education through Partnerships for Global Competitiveness.
Objectives of the Summit
The focus of the 2015 as reflected by the theme, “21st Nigeria Economic Summit, Tough Choices: Achieving Competitiveness, Inclusive Growth and Sustainability, was informed by the new challenges confronting the economy in the light of sharp decline in crude oil prices. Key outcomes that are expected at the end of the three days summit include specific recommendations on how to: create jobs; dismantle the pillars of corruption; establish and build upon pillars of sustainable growth and development, which include macro-economic stability and growth (fiscal and monetary policy reforms, restructure Federal Government revenues, etc); Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SME growth (reforms to improve funding mechanisms and further diversify the economy); Institutional reforms (accountability, ICT, etc) and Competitiveness (infrastructure, policy bottlenecks, human development, etc); Align our home-grown long-term development agenda with the UN Sustainable Development Goals that will take effect in January 2016.
Kyari’s Opening Remarks
Elaborating on the objective of this year’s summit, Chairman of NESG and also the Chief Executive Officer, Central Securities Clearing System, CSCS Limited, Mr. Kyari Abba Bukar, said “This year’s summit is particularly significant for two reasons- first because the country has witnessed for the first time a change in administration characterized by a party other than the traditional ruling party occupying the central seat of government and second because of the current dynamics on economic scene that require urgent attention.”
“Let me share with you some of the outcomes of these recommendations. The citizen-led household survey of learning was one of five key initiatives launched at NES 21. This was in recognition of the continued slide in learning outputs across all levels of education in Nigeria, and the need to refocus interventions on quality education and skill acquisition. The committed support from various stakeholders to date has been very encouraging, and the private sector has made progress in coordinating the effort to introduce a citizen-led assessment of foundational competencies in literacy and numeracy across the country through the LEARNigeria initiative.”
Continuing he said, “The summit must also emphasize the need for strong will to execute on the part of all stakeholders, particularly the Government.”
Vice President’s Presen-tation
The keynote address was delivered by Vice President, Professor Osinbajo, who represented President Mohammed Buhari. The Vice-President promised that the Federal Government will continue to work with NESG and other stakeholders in the private sector to ensure that most of the recommendations from the summit would be looked at and implemented to a large extent.
He said “Professionalism is being encouraged, aimed at entrenching the culture of integrity, accountability and rule of law in the system. We also aimed at creating the enabling environment to enhance competitiveness to thrive for institutional reform. In terms of specific, some of the institutional reform issues include revenue diversification issues, and efficiency of tax collection.
“In terms of policy coordination, we are working together with the states. We are presently trying to put together to produce the document for economic planning in the nearest future. Nigeria being a federation, we have initiated collaboration between the federal and states for the economies of the states and federal government. In terms of working together, the National Economic Council (NEC) is coordinating and in the meetings, we were able to take on power and agriculture.
“The absence of proper coordination had created difficulties in the past, hence the reason for this initiative for proper harmonization and coordination of government policies. We have tried to adopt the policy of transparency on the federation earnings, which had always been an issue between the states and federal government. “In his address at the summit.
Secretary of National Planning Commission, Mr. Bassey Akpanyung, described the summit as a platform to promote public, private dialogue towards accelerated national development.
He said, “In the last 20 years the forum has become the largest policy dialogue for policy makers and captains of industries from Nigerian economy.”
While commending the organizers for being steadfast and consistent in their focus, he said the task of nation building is a collective responsibility.
He said the theme is consistent with the change agenda of the present administration and in line with the medium term strategic plan into 2016 – 2020, which focuses on addressing insecurity in the country, fighting corruption, initiating institution reforms, addressing unemployment, caring for vulnerable groups and issues of economic growth and development.
The conference, he noted, was designed to make tough choices considering present global realities bothering on economy. In particular, the continuous reduction in oil prices, insurgency in some parts of the country and rising unemployment rate among the youth.
This, he said, had made it imperative for Nigeria as a nation to start thinking out of the box and in particular consider issues on post oil economy.
Gilauri on Reforming Public Institutions
During the Roundtable with the Vice President on “Reforming Public Institutions to ensure competiveness and Accountability
The former Prime Minister of Georgia, Nila Gilauri, shared the transformation that took place in his country, saying this is the right time for Nigeria to toe the part of transformation and reforms.
He said his country was at one point in its history also had a low ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index, similar to Nigeria’s current ranking adding that, it took conscious effort of enthroning reforms that now makes Goergia to be ranked ahead of Nigeria on the index.
He said for instance while it will take about 77 days to register a business in Nigeria, it takes just a day to do same business registration in Georgia , a country of about 4 million population seize. According to him, while it will take an investor about 260 days to obtain construction permit in Nigeria, it will take just 12 days in Georgia.
He admonished the current administration to be focused on its reforms agenda adding there is no better to do it than now. “This is the right time for the country to take the path of reforms and transformation, when there is significant economy down, turn when you have lower oil price, it is the perfect time to take on reforms. In Georgia, we experienced worse situation , we were at a point worse off in the corruption index of Transparency International but through concerted reforms and effort , Georgia jumped from being one of the most corrupt nations to one of the ten least corrupt nations . How did we achieve it? Tough transformation “, he said.
Commenting on Gilauri’s presentation, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Former Minister of Education, noted that, the Georgian reform is a world class reform that we used when I was at the World Bank, when it wanted to get governments to buy necessities for reform. What it does is to tell each country it can be done.
Citing Honkung, Australia, she said that those societies got to the point where they realized that the cost of corruption was too high for everybody, that even those that benefitted on net aggregate fall victim of corruption. The clamour for change is universal, but requires leaders and leadership to take place.
According to her, top level political commitment is also required to achieve the needed change.
Breaking it into a tripod format, she listed political will; measures that will prevent the occurrence of corruption and measures that sanction corruption. In this tripod, she said lies the factors that improve competitiveness in governance.
While lending her voice to convergence in government institutions, Ezekwesili said ‘We must insist that anything that exists must justify its existence in governance.
She further identified quality of leadership and quality of institutions as another critical area that requires attention to bring change.
Citing the Georgia example, she said Nigerian government must be prepared to assemble quality individuals with strong character and building of quality institutions to drive the policies.
“We need to think of our productivity. There is absolutely zero incentive for productivity for the civil servants. Incentive drives productivity. What we have presently is that cost of bad behaviour is high.
As a result of this, what we need is the productivity of Nigeria. Without improving our productivity level, we cannot compete with anyone in the world. I believe the job is for public, private sector and individual citizens. Investment, strong institutions and good leadership is needed to do the job.
On his part, Dr. Joe Abba, Director General, Bureau of Pubic Service Reform, stated that, “We still have a lot of gap to catch up with Georgia. We must have continuous reform for business to thrive in Nigeria. We look at paying taxes, trading across border, giving credit for business, enforcing contracts and closing businesses. We must build environment that will enable businesses to
operate. We have to think about power, to power factories and the problem of high interest loan from banks. These are factors that prevent businesses from growing in Nigeria.
Contributing, Dr. Konyinsola Ajayi, Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi, noted, “ We have multi-headed form of regulation. We have to have serious legislative action to drive change. We should consider federal character and statism, which is the fact that, many people see it as a means of political patronage, hence many people in government.
“We must ensure that federal character has meaning by ensuring there is proper representation in government and also ensure we take statism into our affairs.
What we have is a mindset of federal control, which we need to work on. So many things are concentrated at the centre and until we devolve power to the states, not much will be achieved. I believe that if bones can be broken by state governments, it can as well be broken at the federal level.
“We must ensure that the judicial system do not stand in the way of public service. Principles of law are there to ensure public servants enjoy the liberty to take decisions.
He faulted the constitution of some government agencies that double as regulator and operator and called for a review of their operation.
“You cannot be a regulator and still play in the field. I think we need to begin to look into the system that with the hope that will address the problem. Our demographics are defective and needs to be taken into account for a better tomorrow.”
Joe Abah on efforts to Reforming Nigeria’s public service
Also speaking, Director of Bureau of Public Service Reform, Dr. Joe Abah, said, “We have made a proposal on how we want to carry out reforms in the public service. Following that we have made reviews of agencies and parastatals. Public service reforms in the last two years have focused
too heavily on ministries but it is the agencies that are closer to the people and that can deliver on services. We should focus very seriously on agency reforms. There is much duplication that has to be addressed. We should set out framework through which we can rationalize these agencies. We need to add additional focus to what the agencies deliver and cost of running them.
Improving the business climate, public finance and address the dislocations caused in the past. We need to have convergence in this process. We have got the pressure from the citizens, now we need the power from the government as well as the willingness to achieve rapid change. It is important we have a commonality of understanding of understanding for reforming public institutions.”