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Democracy dividend: OPS gives conflicting scorecard

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…Economy progressing but structurally defective — LCCI
…Gains hindered by anti-development conditions — NECA

By Victor Young and Naomi Uzor

At the backdrop of the celebrations over Nigeria’s 20 years of uninterrupted democratic governance, leading organised private sector, OPS groups have picked holes with the impact of the milestone on the economy and other development variables.

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In a statement sent to Vanguard, the Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, stated that though the 20 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria has earned the country enormous goodwill as one of the few stable democracies in Africa, the core democratic values and ideals are yet to take firm root, especially in the transparency in the management of public finance, rule of law, separation of powers and the inherent checks and balances.

He added that the economic growth trend, measured by the performance of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has been generally positive over the last two decades.

Yusuf, stated: “This is good compared to growth conditions in most economies around the world. However, it remains a major worry that the economy is still structurally defective as it is too dependent on the oil and gas sector, creating serious vulnerability risks.  The lack of political will to reform the oil and gas sector remains a major shortcoming of governance over the past decades.”

He noted that the financial services sector has been significantly transformed since independence through leveraging technology to enhance service delivery.  The sophistication of the industry can compare with its counterparts even in the advanced economies.

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“However the financial intermediation role of the banking system is still unsatisfactory.  It has weak linkages with many other sectors of the economy. This has constrained the impact of the sector on the economy from a systemic perspective.

“The quality of the business environment remains a source of concern to investors, especially in the real sector. Weak infrastructure, policy environment and institutions had adverse effects on efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of many enterprises in the economy.  These conditions pose a major risk to job creation in and economic inclusion across sectors.”

In a related comment, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, yesterday urged the government at all levels to take decisive actions, targeted at tackling economic, security and other challenges, as the nation marked its 59 years of nationhood.

In his message to Nigerians, Director General of NECA, Mr. Timothy Olawale, stated: “Since independence in 1960, the country has witnessed varied developmental efforts and outcomes, ranging from significant political development, economic policy milestones and development in human capital.

“Unfortunately, all the gains had been consistently hindered by anti-development conditions such as poor governance, prevalent corruption, high cost of governance, security challenges and rent seeking amongst many others. The resilience of the Nigerian economy, however, led to growth in different sectors including but not limited to agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, foreign trade and investment, urbanization, communication and information technology and of course oil and gas, which has propelled the economy into a viable emerging economy with relatively stable exchange rate, fairly predictable macroeconomic environment and good prospects for growth”.

Olawale commended the nation for its role in stabilising the Africa continent both militarily through the numerous peace keeping missions and economically as the largest economy with industrious and hard-working populace.

He however noted that the strength and potential of the nation had not been used for the benefit of the citizens, saying “although the country is politically independent, it has not been free to galvanize the resources in the interest of the citizens to achieve the desired level of development. Overall, the connection between available resources and development outcomes in Nigeria has been insignificant. The market fundamentalists pressurized the country to abandon its planning strategy while at the same time discouraging the necessary capital investment to ensure sustainable growth and development.

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“Although the score card is far more impressive in terms of the economic indicators over the last one decade than the human and social indicators, it is therefore, imperative to urge that all ‘killer’ policies should henceforth be placed in a ‘cooler’ to be reviewed and given a human face. One of the critical enemies facing the economy is the growing unemployment rate, and most protuberant is the youth unemployment. With a population of almost 200 million, nearly a quarter of the population is out of work and 20 percent is underemployed. For young people aged 15 to 35, the figures are grim: 55.4 percent of them are without work”.

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