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‘There is no alternative to clear economic direction’

‘There is no alternative to clear economic direction’
How do you see the economic management of the country, which the Vice President manages?
For the first place, this government does not have a National Economic Management Team, because of its warped view that the fight against corruption is the best, and perhaps the only way, to develop a buoyant economy. By virtue of paragraph 18(a), Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Vice President Osinbajo, is the Chairman of the National Economic Council comprising of the Governor of each of the states of the Federation and the CBN Governor. Paragraph 19, provides that the National Economic Council shall have power to advise the President concerning the economic affairs of the Federation, and in particular on measures necessary for the coordination of the economic planning efforts or economic programmes of the various Governments of the Federation.

The constitutional role of the National Economic Council is political and is not a substitute for an economic team and the misconception that Vice President is charged with the management of the economy is at the root of non-preparedness of the economy’s blueprint expected from the government. It is trite, that nobody can give what he does not have. We need a renowned economist to oversee experts whose pieces of advice can lift the economy. By profession, the Vice President is a Lawyer and he has his limitations and we must acknowledge this fact in other to move forward.


Why should it take so long to have an economic direction or framework to operate?
The delay in appointing ministers, the politics of sharing of political offices by the ruling party and the President’s penchant to several diplomatic tours, spending more time outside the country within the first twelve months of coming into power, among others, exacerbated our economic woes. The reliance on the President’s body language, the dose of propaganda, and the Messianic disposition of those at the corridors of power also contributed in leading us to this economic direction.
Many concerned Nigerians, shouted themselves hoarse on the issue of shoring up the Naira and restoring investors’ confidence but only the Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor were available to do the damage control. Against the advice of Christine Lagarde, the IMF boss, that the Naira should be devalued, but our President tenaciously held to his position that devaluation will hurt Nigerians more. We know better, now.

Moreover, this administration seems to have adopted the command structure in driving the economy. Every policy seems to wait for Presidential imprimatur for it to take off, hence, one can confidently answer that it has taken so long to have an economic framework because the President has not been disposed to having one. It is in the news that the much awaited economic blueprint will be fully prepared in December 2016, that is next month, and then will be about 20 months from the date of inception of this administration.

What advice do you have to urge Government to come up with a policy direction?
The government should appoint or rejig its so called Economic Management Team. A holistic economic blueprint should be showcased for Nigerians to evaluate. The blueprint, which should take cognisance of the contents of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the Fiscal Strategy Paper and our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, should provide for short term, medium term and long term objectives and realisable goals with appropriate monitoring templates.

The Organised Private Sector must be incorporated into plans and policies. A rapprochement between the public sector and the private sector is needed as an exit strategy. I encourage the Government to launch its economy blueprint without further delay if the recession will recede before 2019.
Given the state of the economy, do you think government will still meet its tax projections?
In a time of recession, the government behaves like Oliver Twist, that is, its tax projection is very elastic and meeting it will be a tall order. With the liberalisation of the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the resultant capture of more people in the tax net, there is likelihood of increase in tax revenue. Relatively, it appears to me that the tax projection will be met if the economy improves and otherwise if the recession worsens.

Without prejudice to whether this administration will leave in 2019, its ability to bring us out of recession is dependent on a combination of factors. Political sagacity is required and relative peace in the Niger Delta will create a salubrious environment for the economy to improve through increased oil export.

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