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ERGP and the mountains to climb

By Dele Sobowale

This occasion is timely and according to the plan, the unique point of our four year economic growth plan. It comes with an implementation strategy and a devise which has been described as laboratories.—VP Osinbajo.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo 

THE two most active Ministers in Buhari’s administration must be the Ministers of Transportation and the Minister for Budget and National Planning,Messrs Rotimi Amaechi and Udo Udoma suffer the consequences of being in service at the same time with a bunch of dullards. Udoma would understand it better.

As an old boy of Kings College, he would recall that some secondary schools in Lagos [names withheld] were regarded as inferior because most of their candidates failed the West African School Certificate despite a few who made Grade 1. But, public analysts must sift the wheat from the dust in order to be fair to all concerned as the Rotarians would admonish us.

The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, which was launched in April 2017 is finally getting off the ground with the announcement of a huge price tag for it. According to the Federal Government, FG, it will cost an amazing $245bn with the government providing 20 per cent or $49bn and the private sector $196bn over the next four years.

It will constitute the boldest attempt to speed up economic growth and development in the nation’s history. FG also promised to create 15 million jobs. That can be left for the moment. Every government, including this one, has fed the people with a salad bowl of illusions on the millions of jobs they would create only for more jobs to be lost.

The ERGP promises Gross Domestic Product growth of 4 per cent to seven per cent by the end of the fourth year. That is welcome news. On page B3 of the DAILY INDEPENDENT of February 8, 2018, the ECONOMY SNAPSHOT revealed how the GDP per capita had declined to $2,457.80 in 2016 from $2,563.10 in 2014. The result for 2017 is unlikely to improve on the 2016 level.

The reason is clear. With population growing at 3 per cent a nation needs more than four per cent growth for the economic welfare of its citizens to improve. Nigeria has been growing at less than one per cent since 2015. We need a huge economic stimulus, other than the annual budget to get us there.

To that extent, I totally agree with the aims and objectives of ERGP. The novel approach to developing the economy is also commendable. We are borrowing from a success story – the Malaysian experience. In 1992, one of the authors of Malaysia’s VISION 2020 delivered the Keynote address at the National Economic Summit Group, NESG, annual workshop and introduced Nigeria to visioning.

The Malaysian VISION 2020 is not just an economic programme, it is attempt to restructure the social, economic, political and judicial structures of the country in order to create a more egalitarian society.

Unfortunately, after the first NESG workshop convened by Chief Ernest Shonekan, charlatans took over. While the Malaysian VISION 2020 was planned for a generation – meaning thirty years – the next NESG meeting ended with the appointment of a VISION 2010 Committee, by the Abacha administration, which sought to accomplish in less than twelve years what the Malays planned for thirty.

Even Yar’Adua and Jonathan were persuaded by economic witchdoctors to buy into the idea that Nigeria could become one of the world’s twenty largest economies without a lot of social transformation accompanying the proposed economic plans. Today, with less than two years to 2020, the purveyors of fake economics no longer disturb our peace.

But, ERGP has emerged as the new economic paradigm. It carries with it elements of the VISION 2020 legitimate dreams and aspirations as well as the frightening illusions and nightmares. The mere mention of “10 GW electricity increase and attaining 100 position in the ease of doing business by 2020” reveals our obsession with the year 2020. What on earth is magical or sacrosanct about 2020? Just another year!

While the obstacles are almost uncountable, the most pressing and the limiting factor militating against ERGP is TIME. Let us borrow experience from other lands. President Lyndon B Johnson, LBJ, 1908-1973, launched his Great Society programme the first month after winning a landslide victory in 1964.

With a majority in Congress and a political “honeymoon” he realized that, with a four-year mandate, the only way to establish a major programme is to start early. Get the legislature to pass the necessary bills and start implementing. He succeeded largely; the economy grew at its fastest rate before and since then.

If LBJ had waited until 1967 to present the programme, by which time the Viet Nam War had eroded his popularity, it would probably not have sailed through. As it turned out, LBJ voluntarily stepped down in 1968. His successor, Richard Nixon, would certainly not have implemented the programme even if passed into law by Congress.

In case the point is lost on anybody, ERGP, with all its merits, might have come at the wrong time. In 2015-2016 it might have had a chance for fair consideration by the National Assembly, NASS.

In February 2018, the NASS is still sitting on the 2018 Budget; the ruling party is divided, the President’s popularity has plummeted and election is in the fore front of considerations. How on earth the FG will get the NASS to consider the ERGP is the first mountain to climb. Otherwise, it would have amounted to a waste of precious time…

To be continued


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