Published On: Tue, Sep 12th, 2017

PMB and the Nigerian economy

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By Louis Okoroma

Recent information and analysis show that things are looking up for the nation’s economy. In fact, the forecast by experts and international agencies on the outlook for the economy which has been in recession for the past 18 months or thereabout, is that slowly but surely, the country is coming out of recession and that the worst is over.
The above show that handlers of the economy have so far done a good job in containing the recession, slowing down inflation and setting the economy on the part of growth and development. That Nigerians have good news on the economy today, is a testimony to the effort of the Muhammadu Buhari administration and the vigilance now attending governance and public administration.
Though the international price for crude oil, the mainstay of the nation’s economy has not and may never return to the boom years or the years of high prices which averaged about one hundred and twenty dollars, better and prudent management and the plugging of loop- hole of waste that littered financial management in the past, are among the measures that has helped make the situation of today possible.
Among the measures are the implementation of the now popular Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN). Both has ensured that all financial transactions, public and private are identifiable and traceable thus reducing to the barest minimum, money laundering and diversion and misappropriation of public funds. The rate at which public funds gets lost in transit or paid out to dubious officials via the ghost worker syndrome has drastically reduced.
Again, a lot of credit is due to President Buhari on account of his anti- corruption campaign. The latter has exposed how public officials entrusted with public welfare betrayed the nation and created a lot of awareness in the citizenry that now, most Nigerians including public officials are careful to avoid corruption and waste. Attitudes are changing and this change is in both personal and public finance management.
Another reason for the improvement of the economy, again traceable to the leadership and disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari, is the gradual roll- back of dependency of the nation’s economy on foreign goods and services.
Though the country is still a long way off from being self- reliant, the awareness has grown that to survive as a nation, and an economy, the country needs to attain a reasonable level of self- reliance and robust international economic engagement by way of becoming an export economy at least in those areas where it can claim some comparative advantage. This informed the ban by the Buhari administration on some 41 items which with good faith and hard work, can be produced in Nigeria. This measure to a large extent eased the pressure on the demand for foreign exchange by business people in the economy.
The prevailing spirit of export orientation and reduced import dependency has propelled the government policy of diversification, which is a major sing- song of President Buhari when he came on board. President Buhari aptly identified lack of diversification and total focus and dependency on crude oil and gas as the undoing of the nation’s economy with total neglect of agriculture which was the mainstay of the economy in the early days of independence.
Coupled with the widespread indiscipline and lack of a saving culture of the past leadership in the country, when overproduction and saturation of the oil market occurred with the nation’s oil receipts at its lowest, the situation of the country became akin to that of someone falling suddenly from a height! This called for extreme and unpopular measures for the country to weather the storm and PMB not being a man to delay taking pain killers, took the hard choices that prevented total collapse of the economy via continued dependence on the dictates of the external economic factors.
Diversification of the economy has taken giant strides in the past two years with positive results. To a considerable degree, the nation’s import bill in a number of areas has reduced considerably with noticeable impact on the foreign exchange situation. The staple food rice which before 2015, gulped billions of naira in import bill has been reduced considerably as a rice production fever sweeps the entire country. More urgency and impetus has been added to domestic rice production to the point that now in our markets nationwide, the consumer is confronted with competing choices of locally – produced rice namely Ebonyi, Kebbi, Lagos, and Anambra etc. depending on the State producing the rice. Even former well known corporate importers of the commodity, have become planters complimented with rice processing plants and mills across the country. And for good measure, Nigeria produced rice is also found in markets in the west Coast and a few African countries. Economic experts say that if the current trend and enthusiasm continues, in the next five to ten years, Nigeria would take a respectable place among the leading rice producers in the world. A recent report revealed that Nigeria’s total rice production is 15 million metric tons and has saved the princely sum of N300 billion for the country!
Similarly, laudable progress has been made in the cultivation and production of cassava, yams, millet, beniseed, tomatoes and cotton etc., and the export of these items. Increased production has resulted in more employment, more revenue for the farmers and farm hands and increased application of modern equipment in farming to add value to the products.
Another area where the present administration has shown good sense and astute decision- making is in the management of salaries and pension of workers which were left unsettled by the profligacy and unbridled corruption of the immediate past administrations in the country. The Ministry of Finance recently released a huge sum of money for the settlement of these monies owed workers and pensioners across the federation. This move will not only bring relief to suffering workers and pensioners, but will also help to reflate the economy by making demands on the production sector and the market.
For the first time in our history, the Federal Government has got involved and is actually implementing a School feeding program for Nigerian children. A recent publication reveal that the sum of N6.2 billion has been spent on this program and about 15 States of the Federation have keyed into the program or are benefitting. This again to a considerable degree would go a long way to provide not only much needed food for many poor and under-privileged children but also employment for thousands of workers who cook this food and the agricultural sector workers who produce the raw food needed for the program.
Aside School children, youths have been well factored into the government’s economic management and development programs through the social investment programs and employment generation schemes. Prominent among these programs are the N-Power program which at present has engaged close to a 100, 000 youths with University education in productive ventures in teaching and agriculture.
There is hope that the present momentum on the economy would be sustained going by the ambitious and forward- looking infrastructural development projects contained in the 2017 budget. The budget plans to provide first class road infrastructure in all parts of the country as well as railways and waterways, all of which would make transportation available and adequate for the needs of the economy. By the time the infrastructural projects come on stream, the nation would be able to boast of an integrated and reliable national transportation and infrastructure network to support economicdevelopment- oriented economic activities.
The result of the careful management of the economy, which we are witnessing, is that investor confidence in the economy is on the upswing. A recent report showed that the Nigeria Stock Exchange has witnessed greater dynamism and activities, as stocks and shares in the past few months responded positively.
If the States and local governments can also complement the effort of the Federal Government by providing necessary infrastructure at the State and local levels, those levels of economic production would be challenged and opened up for business to the overall benefit of the nation’s economy.

Louis Okoroma is a Political Analyst and Media Consultant based in Abuja.

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