May 1, 2017

We must get back to the era of National Development Plan — Presidency Economic Adviser

We must get back to the era of National Development Plan  — Presidency Economic Adviser

Dr. Yemi Dipeolu

The Chief Economic Adviser to the President, in the Office of the Vice President, Dr. Yemi Dipeolu and his team held a workshop for Business journalists, in Abuja, last week to speak on the implementation strategy of the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). 

By Emeka Anaeto,  & Emma Ujah,

HOW inclusive is the Plan Inclusiveness in the ERPG is probably the most important part of that plan. Not only inclusiveness in the way it was drawn up but inclusiveness in the way the policies will work out and I give three examples: the first example is in agriculture. If you are making intervention that support small scale farmers by reducing for instance, the price of fertilizer, by making them able to have access to finance through Anchor Borrowers Pogramme. What you are doing is that you are helping inclusiveness because even small scale producers are benefitting.

The second example has to do with the MSMEs, recognizing that 50 per cent of our GDP and may be up to 70 percent of our employment comes from micro, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs). So again, the fact that this is integrated in that plan is a signal of its inclusiveness.

But perhaps for me most interestingly are the social inclusion programmes.

Dr. Yemi Dipeolu

Social inclusion programmes

The school feeding programmes, stop to think of it for a moment, you want to feed primary school children across the country, the first thing is a geographical effect. Every village has a primary school so that is a government policy that will affect nearly every part of the country once we are up and fully running. That’s the promise that it holds down in terms of inclusiveness because in every community there is a primary school.

The farmer who produces the cassava will benefit because you are going to buy cassava from him, The person who turns it into garri will benefit because we are going to buy the garri from her, the person who transport the foodstuffs to where it is going to be used is going to benefit as well, the person who cooks the foodstuff is going to benefit, the person who supplies the packaging materials for serving the foodstuffs is going to benefit, the person who have to serve the food is also going to benefit.

The N-power program by which up to 200,000 young graduates don’t have to wake up in the morning and feel sad and I hope you have seen some of the videos trending about what those young people are saying and the difference it makes. So what am trying to say is that, inclusiveness is part and parcel of that plan in various dimensions.  

What will expand the economy this year?

Let me give an example, if you want to think of something, think of Nigeria as a construction site. When you see a construction site, what you see is a lot of activities. You don’t see the skyscraper. But, let’s look at agriculture. Things are happening, the agricultural sector is growing, and I’ve met young people going into agriculture, I have met the old going into agriculture, I have met big players going into agriculture.

Let’s look at roads; I think anybody who went home during Christmas or Easter cannot deny that the road network is being worked upon. At least I experienced Lagos-Ibadan in better shape than it has been in the past twenty to twenty-five years when I went on it and it’s not yet completed. I read an article by somebody who is thanking the minister for enabling him to go home to the East from Lagos to go and bury his father because the road network has improved. If you are from that part and he was not saying the truth, say so.

Let’s talk about railways. Not perfect, but we all saw that Idu and Kaduna is functioning. We saw that they have started building the Lagos-Ibadan.

Let’s talk about airport; we saw that they could fix Abuja airport  in six weeks  and keeping to the promise. What am saying is that there are lots of activities going on, there are houses being built.

There is something we call the Family Homes Fund which when the budget is passed we hope we need about a hundred billion to do that because the problem in housing is finance. People cannot afford twenty per cent mortgages. We are trying to bring the mortgages down to nine per cent, we are trying to make sure that the contractors now borrow at about 30%. That Fund will enable them to borrow at 15% but already some states have started. I think Bauchi, Ogun have started.

We have about 12,500 mega watts of installed electricity and I will come back to the issue of transmission later. So when you ask how we are going to get the 10,000, we already have it. What we should do is to get it into our homes. But I will talk about it later.

Nigeria is a construction site and as we continue on the work on that construction site, I am confident that when all these activities come together, in a holistic manner, we will see result. Go and check the company result, they are not fantastic. But by and large they are making a lot of profit that make me wonder how you can make such profit in a recession.

  What is the plan for the Power, electricity situation?

Those are solution that will all come into play. The upgrade, midgrade, renewable energy- they all come to play in other words, dedicated energy. You cannot solve things overnight. It’s a process. Of concentration, policy making, gathering the facts, getting the laws passed. So it is not a snap shot.

The DISCOs (electricity Distribution Companies) said they were not being paid and therefore what’s the point of taking on more power.   That means am adding debt when I’m not getting the payment. The way it is supposed to work is that DISCOs get paid by you and I, they pay the transmission company, and we pay the GENCOs (Generation Companies). And the burden is on DISCO, and they are saying, how can we do this?

Power sector recovery plan

There was a Power Sector Recovery Plan not too long ago, and it’s to address some of the bottlenecks in the power sector. But the critical thing I want to bring out here is that the federal government is recognizing that the MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) are part of the substantial amount of debt owed to the DISCOs has put money in the budget as well to try and help pay up some of this debt so that we can also put some liquidity in the hands of the Power companies, so that there will also be all sort of guarantees around the power purchase agreement and to help that process as well.

What is the content of the government’s plan on agriculture?

What we are trying to do in agriculture first and foremost is what we call “the general”. In other words, providing support of a general nature to farmers through financing. That is what the Bank of Agriculture is doing. Providing support to farmers.   For instance, fertilizer; bringing the prize down to N5, 500. This kind of intervention   will help farmers. But then there are specific interventions where we say lets tackle rice, wheat, tomatoe paste. Why? Because if you look at it, rice was consuming a large amount of our foreign exchange and we are saying you can plant this things here so why don’t we do something about rice. We can grow a lot of things we are consuming so why don’t we take specific intervention in that sector while recognizing that there will be general support. A lot of agriculture now is going to be to out-grower skills, we are going to have the master farmer who is going to be required to support a lot of the farmers around him and provide them with assistance, pesticides and also guarantee uptake at the end. So those schemes are very much in place there.

What is the guaranty of continuity of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan under a new regime?

We are all Nigerians, if those things that we planned happen, they happen for all Nigerians. We must as a nation get to the level where everything that is of interest to the generality of the public is understood as belonging to all of us.

Railway projects

In this particular plan, you will find that there is no “I didn’t start this project” all the railway projects everywhere was completed, the new airport buildings in Abuja and Lagos which they (past regime) did not start using, efforts were not made to complete them.

Industrial Revolution Plan was not passed by this administration; you can see how good we used it. It belongs to Nigeria. We are building on the transformation agenda.

As a nation, we must begin to see  implementation of the plan as ours. Let’s have a basic agreement that these are the things that matter to us as a society. Therefore there will be continuity in that regard. Ownership belongs to the people and then we should be able to see some continuity in our plan.

We really must get back to the era of National Development Plan. We did that in the early 60s and 70s. We must get back to the era of treating national plans as national plans.

There are concerns that the Niger Delta Question may not have been resolved which portends danger in the horizon regarding oil led economy.

Consultation is going on with the stakeholders.   If the stakeholders felt that they were being ignored, they would have told us.   We are collaborating with them very closely, at a working level, not just at political level.

I know people who have been given assignment to act as coordinators to make sure these things happen.   Again it will emerge but we are waiting for mama to bring out the food from the kitchen.   But we can hear movements in the kitchen, we can perceive the aroma of the food that is being prepared. And I think it is very important to bear this in mind, we must prepare adequately. I can assure you that preparations are indeed going on.

The government would need the National Assembly to see through the plan implementation. Are you carrying them along?

In terms of the role of the National Assembly, let me say it straight away that even the Senate President himself came to the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council.   He came with the Speaker, just to support that action plan.   They undertook that some of the things required of the NASS would be done.   In other words, where we need the legislation by the NASS, it would be done.

How is the Economic Stimulus doing now?

The stimulus is working. The decision of the federal government to provide special intervention funds to states to enable them pay workers’ salaries is part of the efforts to stimulate the economy.   If workers are not paid, they won’t be able to buy the goods that are produced by manufacturers.   They will not be able to buy food from farmers.

The N-Power Programme through which the federal government is providing job opportunities to young graduates to empower them is part of the stimulus.   We have also been focusing on the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) through which we are reaching out to operators in that sub-sector.  We have been holding clinics with them to identify their immediate challenges and indeed we have been addressing them.   We have also been encouraging even market women to form cooperatives so that it would be easier for them to take advantage of the various financial windows put in place in the interest of small businesses in the country.

The School Feeding Programme of this administration is another way to stimulate the economy.   With that programme, poultry farmers that produce eggs will have a steady flow of income; those cooking the food also benefit from it and the chain goes down to other players in the economy.