The Federal Executive Council [FEC] recently approved the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the long awaited road map to take the country out of the ongoing recession. As the title implies, the plan constitutes an ambitious course of action which is intended to reverse the seemingly intractable economic quandary facing the country, only two years into the tenure of an administration that came into office with significant promise. The plan has as some of its highlights stability of the macro-economic environment, agricultural and food sufficiency, energy sufficiency (with respect to power and petroleum products supply), improved transportation infrastructure as well as accelerated industrialization with emphasis on small and medium scale enterprises.
Incidentally, ERGP is seen largely as a panic induced knee-jerk response, coming rather belatedly and arriving against the backdrop of serial calls by Nigerians and other well disposed stake holders in the Nigerian economy for the government to articulate a robust economic agenda along with an economic team. This call was made right from the inception of its tenure in May 2015 but went unheeded. At least the World Bank and the African Development Bank are among stakeholders that had faulted the inexcusable delay by the Buhari administration to articulate a credible economic blue print for the Nigerian economy early in the day. It is generally believed that had the Buhari administration heeded the clarion calls then, the ongoing recession would have been averted, thereby saving the country the attendant hardship that is now the lot of Nigerians.
Without equivocation the country is presently witnessing some of its most painful conditions of life by the citizenry. For instance the forex market is presently in a chaotic state with the Naira exchanging for foreign currencies at unprecedented rates. Given the high import dependence of the economy the crisis in the forex market has unleashed apparent collapse and stagnation in many aspects of life for the citizenry. While the manufacturing sector has remained perhaps the worst hit in the near-meltdown of the Nigerian economy, prices of basic food staples, including even locally produced items have risen to unaffordable levels for most Nigerians, leading to the incessant outcry by sundry sections of the society.
Yet the ERGP is coming with a complement of weaknesses and red flags, each of which offers the government’s intention little relief. For instance, while ERGP intends to be different from other plans, there is widespread doubt over this claim, especially with respect to its growth projection. While the country’s population is growing at an average of 3%, the plan envisages a GDP growth rate of 4.6% instead of the 6% - 7% that is required for the economy to grow but which extant conditions cannot guarantee. Secondly is the rather unclear position of the government in the management of the all important forex market. Yet another area of concern is the rather vague provision for action to invigorate the informal sector on which real transformation of the economy will depend. This is just as there is no mention of a specific concern with the reform of the public service which will serve as the vehicle that drives the entire economic recovery and growth agenda. Many people fear that this plan could be another exercise in business as usual by the Nigeria economic planning establishment.
In the spirit of being better late than never, the government needs to be commended, but also needs to allow this plan be adjustable to actualise the electoral promise of changing the lot of Nigerians by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as that is the ultimate yardstick by which Nigerians will judge the administration with respect to its performance in improving the economic lives of the people.
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