By Dele Sobowale
“Planning is a process by which you continuously create your own future.”
Roger Fritz, in Entrepreneur 1996.
Every serious plan should have at least one goal in mind. A National Development Plan, NDP, ideally sets many development goals at once. It is always best if the goals are all very complimentary. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, had this to say about goals. “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” The great physicist and father of nuclear energy, in all its ramifications, forgot to add that the dreams must be realistic to begin with.
Unrealistic dreams, based on sentiments, rather than quantitative analysis, invariably result in unattainable goals. No Nigerian NDP has achieved its major goals for reasons we shall soon discover. But, because there is a current NDP, it might be necessary to visit it later.
For the avoidance of any doubt, this is not going to be just a criticism of the outgoing Buhari administration and the failures of its plans. It would serve no useful purpose to waste time and space on a lame duck government which has only one more year to go. Most of the next twelve months will undoubtedly be devoted to politics; and very little time will be available to execute its last plan.
EXAMPLES FROM THE PAST
“People have finally realised that decisions made today will affect life for the next 30 to 40 years…” Edward Cornish. 1995.
In order to understand the present, we need to step back to the past; and then we can have some idea of what to expect in the future. Many of us would recollect some of the goals we have set for ourselves in the past; based on the dreams of some of our leaders. They have three things in common.
One, what they called dreams was more like wishful thinking. Two, they all failed. Three, all their successors were not committed to the same set of dreams. All their successors had very little on which to build or simply chose to start afresh.
Here are three examples from the past administrations; plus a fourth from the Buhari government.
- Housing for all by 2000 was a programme of the Babangida regime. When it was launched in 1986, the country would have had to double the number of houses accumulated over two hundred years to achieve the goal in 2000. Questions raised about the deadline were ignored then. Today, 36 years later, the housing deficit has grown larger. The gap between dream and reality had widened.
- President Obasanjo signed on behalf of Nigeria for the attainment of the
Millennium Development Goals, MDGs; which included schooling for every girl-child in the country. Last week, UNICEF announced that 10 million girls were out of school in Nigeria. At the time Obasanjo committed Nigeria, all the kids, boys and girls, out of school were only 6 million. The gap is obvious.
- President Yar’Adua was not the originator of the VISION 20:2020. But, his government adopted it. According to the dreamers, Nigeria would have become one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020. Two years after the deadline, Nigeria has not only failed to reach the goal, we are now at risk of losing ground as number 31 on the global table; as the global reliance on crude oil declines and without another source of revenue to power our economy.
- The Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP, was a plan of the Buhari administration which was launched with the sort of exaggeration characteristic of all Nigerian governments. According to Vice President Osinbajo, the launcher, “This occasion is timely and according to plan. The unique part of our four-year economic plan. It comes with an implementation strategy and a device which has been described as laboratorious.” Vice President Osinbajo, April 20, 2017. Substantially, the ERGP promised Nigerians investments totalling $245bn, with the FG contributing $49bn and the private sector $196bn. For that quantum of investments, Nigerians were promised Gross Domestic Product, GDP, growth of 4 per cent in 2017; it would rise to 7 per cent in 2020 and power supply of 10,000MW a day. No single one of the targets was met; we were not even close. GDP in 2017 was 0.8 per cent; and in 2020 was -3.4 per cent. Furthermore, the ERGP was announced five months late; and there was nothing unique about the implementation strategy. All good plans include that. From that bit of self-deception, the plan went to ruin; as we now know.
The obvious question is, why have we always got it wrong each time we unfold a National Development Plan?
WHY OUR PLANS GO WRONG EVERY TIME.
On account of space constraints, permit me to list without elaboration some of the reasons. They are all interrelated and spring from one source – lack of leadership objectivity and competence.
? They contain unattainable dreams within impossible time frames.
? They are formulated by officials of governments or committees led by Presidents labouring under delusions of grandeur (the Giant of Africa complex).
? They are more political than economic and realistic.
? They are not operationally dynamic.
? They are frequently premised on wrong assumptions; especially about future growth prospects. Annual growth is invariably assumed without taking into consideration changes in the world which might impede growth.
? They frequently ignore the previous plans; whereas, a new plan should start with a review of the old plans; especially the immediate past NDP. An objective appraisal should be undertaken aimed at establishing the successes and failures; and to learn from them.
Readers will soon see how all these factors are at play when attention turns to the current NDP 2021-2025.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN, NDP, 2021-2025
“The NDP targets an increase in the Labour Force of the country to 74 million by 2025. According to the plan, the projection for 2021 is 67.05 million; 2022 is 68.75 million, 2023 is 70.44 million, 2024 is 72.20 million and 2025 is 74.01 million persons.”
The plan projects that the vastly increased employment will result from a more inclusive economy and will be private sector led. Un-stated, but implied in that brief summary of NDP job creation goals, are three related sub-goals – increased investments in various sectors of the economy, sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation. These are laudable objectives; which should induce hope that the future will be brighter than the present and the past. But, there is a snag.
Nigerians have heard all these before; and they have been disappointed in the end. This government has failed to live up to its promises; as will soon be demonstrated. One reason why this particular set of promises might be difficult to redeem lies in the fact that some of the figures are questionable – given our past experience with investments and a looming global recession starting this year on account of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Without providing the base figures for 2020, the promise was to achieve a net gain of 170,000 jobs in 2021, another increase of 169,000 in 2022, a further jump of 176,000 in 2024, and finally, 181,000 in 2025. We have finished 2021; and we are almost half way into 2022. We can ask how we stand now with NDP 2021-2025. Fortunately, we already have some answers, which will be presented without further elaboration. A few will be sufficient.
? 40% of Nigerian youths jobless – Adesina, President African Development Bank.
? Capital importation suffers 30% decline, records $6.7bn.
? MAN’s warning on naira and job losses.
? IOCs fear collapse as FG saysN1.36tn crude stolen in 14 months
? FG’s N1.3tn electricity intervention fund underperformed – Finance Minister.
? FOREIGN INVESTMENTS: Nigeria loses to other African countries in oil, gas.
? FG may spend 93% of revenue on debt and interest payments.
? 2 million Small and Medium Scale Enterprises fold up in the last three years.
Try as much as one can, it would be impossible to point to any variable which points to new job creation in Nigeria in the last five years. On the contrary, everything indicates increasing unemployment. Yet, the NDP 2021-2025, which is in its second year, is again failing because no attention was paid to the total failure of ERGP. The ERGP actually promised Nigerians 15 million new jobs within the four years covered by the plan. Instead, the country has lost jobs.
The NDP 2021-2025 certainly cannot achieve its objectives on job creation, because it was based on a salad bowl of illusions.
NDPs will come close to helping Nigerians to reach the goals established if they are prepared by professionals and based on facts. “Every government is run by liars; that is why their plans don’t work.