PROMINENT Nigerians — economists, bankers, top industrialists and others yesterday listed the way out of the economic crisis.
President Muhammadu Buhari urged them to proffer home-grown solutions.
They spoke at the 25th edition of the Nigeria Economic Summit (NES25) in Abuja organised by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG).
Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II, First Bank Plc Chairman Mrs Ibukun Awosika, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) Dr. Doyin Salami, and top banker Atedo Peterside, gave tips on how to improve the economy and lift millions of people out of poverty.
Dangote flayed the paltry contributions of the manufacturing sector to the country’s GDP and advocated urgent steps to reverse the trend for the economy to make appreciable industrial growth.
According to him, the manufacturing sector currently contributes nine per cent, unlike in the Asian countries where it contributes 30 per cent. “To achieve a significant level of industrialisation and general economic growth, this trend must be reversed,” he said.
Dangote said the government must, among other things: decongest the ports, expand rail network, tackle smuggling, implement gas masterplan and entrench responsive bureaucracy.
Represented by the company’s Group Executive Director, Government and Stakeholder Relations, Ahmed Mansur, Dangote identified the private sector is key to the much-touted industrial revolution.
“Dangote is in the business of producing and distributing cement, foods etc. However, we have found ourselves engaged in power generation, road construction e.t.c as these are critical foundations for our businesses,” he added, urging the government to encourage more investments from local entrepreneurs.
Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside said there is need to quantify the annual petrol subsidy, apportion it and pay each Nigerian adult that falls below a minimum income threshold of his or her share.
He said: “This can be executed transparently by the same office for National Social Investment Programmes that currently pays monthly handouts to a lucky few out of the 90 million extremely poor Nigerians. If the Federal Government is in the habit of being seen to grant subsidies then we should focus less on getting stubborn people to shed a bad habit. It is far better to get them to replace a bad habit of wasted subsidies with a much better habit of direct payments to the poor via an instrument that the rich cannot corner or access.”
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Peterside also called for the trimming of personnel overheads on account of a bloated headcount in the public sector.
“Will 98 per cent of the population continue to suffer so that less than two per cent who make up the bloated public sector can maintain their lifestyles? The same Federal Government endorsed a largely unaffordable minimum wage and presses on with “populist” subsidies which are largely cornered by the rich. Government revenues as a percentage of GDP are exceedingly low at six per cent approximately and yet, all that the private sector does is resist any attempts to increase indirect taxes or price products such as petrol and electricity on the basis of full cost recovery,” he said.
Peterside added: “The responsibility that we must share is to encourage Federal Government to get its finances in order and attain both fiscal viability and macroeconomic stability. We must also encourage Federal Government to level the playing field for investors and quit dangling rent-seeking and/or arbitrage opportunities such as multiple exchange rates, which remain open to abuse,” he stated.
He added that it was not too late for President Buhari’s Government and the National Assembly to borrow a cue from Mozambique and learn how to enact laws that provide clarity and reduce uncertainty for investors in the oil and gas sector and other sectors too.
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi (II) raised the alarm that Nigeria’s huge population had become a liability.
The Emir linked the spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, insurgency, farmers-herders crisis to the level of population growth.
According to him, “people say that our population is an asset but we are yet to get there. Nigeria’s population is currently a liability because most of the root cause of problems such as kidnapping, armed robbery, Boko Haram, drug addiction are all tied to the population that we have and the question is how do you turn that into a productive one.”
Emir Sanusi aded that “population problem is perhaps the most important developmental challenge we have to face. If we don’t have a demographic transition, we will never have economic transition.”
Bishop Hassan Kukah noted that “everything that becomes an opportunity in other countries becomes a liability in Nigeria. How is it that a country that is so resource endowed with all the opportunities that are available to us, things still turn liabilities to us in Nigeria.”
The bishop suggested that the government needed to do more to make the country a better place for all.
Mrs. Awosika said government ought to declare a state of emergency in the education sector in order to harness the potentials of its human resources.
According to her, “we need to articulate our position and strategy to achieve our objectives. Every young person wants an opportunity to be educated and have a job. We must have a political system that serves the interest of the nation rather than individuals. We need to declare an emergency in the education sector and redefine the universities to close the gap from what is being taught and what the industry needs.”
Dr. Salami canvassed a unified approach between federal and sub- national governments for accelerated economic growth. Dr Salami noted that “for private sector to thrive, the government must create enabling environment by ensuring that the resources of private investors were saved.
He enjoined the country to clearly define which areas, the country wants to go into to compete with big countries.