Annual summits and at the NESG have contributed significantly to economic policy formation in our country and upheld the primacy of public private dialogue and committed advocacy. Each day I thank the founding fathers of the NESG.
The theme “Shared Prosperity: 2023 and Beyond” is an aptly worded and succinct summation of the challenge before our country, at this point in our nation’s history.
To share prosperity, we must be prosperous. From where we are today, we have to determine how we become a prosperous, safe, secure and law-abiding nation forged together as one. And as we become prosperous, we must equitably distribute and share our prosperity amongst all our people.
A number of things are being asked of us at this Summit; the adoption of a roadmap, borne of different thinking, that will deliver prosperity, sufficient to support our vast and steadily growing population; the policy framework to ensure that the equitable circulation and sharing of that prosperity amongst all citizens is assured; identification of a few things our government must do over the next six months in its determination to leave behind a much better country; and we should agree a broad-based consensus on the basic policies that our presidential candidates must sign up to, if we as a people are to take them seriously as persons with the capacity, understanding, intellect and resources to run our country.
To realise the goal of prosperity, we must succeed in completely transforming the Nigerian economy within a specified time frame. The Nigeria Agenda 2050, currently being drafted, proposes a time frame of about 25 years. This means we must recalibrate our visioning and work towards a specified target growth, by a specified date, benchmarking ourselves with the most prosperous countries in the world. I propose that, our specified target must be; “turning Nigeria into the most prosperous black country in the world, with a GDP per capita that is at par with the OECD countries, by 2050.”
The purpose of such specific precision is to encourage us first to consider a different way of thinking about economic development – one that is defined not by incremental progress, but by clear objectively measurable goals. If we took that kind of clear approach, it would mean – just based on today’s OECD indices – that we would need to grow our GDP to somewhere between $4.5Tr and $9Tr – depending on whether we are able to remain at a population of around 220 million or continue to grow to the 450 million we have been projected to reach by 2050. We would need to build an economy that is 10 to 20 times the $440 billion economy we have today within 25 years. We must then set ourselves a task of growing at over 15% every year.
Successful national turnarounds start first with addressing basic internal problems and fixing them, and then setting the country’s sights on externally driven growth possibilities.
We must start by achieving macroeconomic stability as this is the foundation of economic growth. Too much has already been said by too many on this issue.
Our Economic Competitiveness is weak. Simply put; we don’t produce enough, for ourselves and can’t produce for the world. We must, take active steps to multiply our productive output particularly in those areas that support foreign exchange earnings and enhance livelihoods. We must effectively address all areas of waste, leakage, theft or graft. Gas flaring, must stop. Only a nation that does not take itself seriously will cry out year after year for power, but continue to fritter away a resource that can deliver that power.
We must think through ingenious ways of fixing and strengthening our institutions; paying particular attention to, our civil service and judiciary and changing the attitude and temperament of those of us who work in these institutions. Simultaneously and most urgently, we must continue to tackle our National Security issues with vigour, aggression and intelligent resource deployment. A prosperous Nigeria cannot be created without decisively dealing with our security problems.
I suggest that we focus on infrastructure investments that directly power economic activity, like overhauling our deep seaports, which are gateways to trade, or building fully gas-powered special economic zones, whose return on investment is both linear and tangible. We must put in place policies and incentives that attract patient capital into our economy.
We must also address the problem of unequal access to basic livelihood amenities like food, water, roads that foster micro activity and enable produce to get to markets, schools that deliver solid basic education without security concerns, and basic healthcare. Last but certainly not the least, we must start to seriously address, in a deliberate way, how to turn our vast manpower into competitive human capital, by bridging the knowledge deficits and skills gaps that will be required for an accelerated future.
Because, the world has changed so much and we are so far behind we must identify avenues to accelerate our growth, over and beyond the ordinary, so we can consistently achieve a 15% growth rate over the next 25 years. We absolutely must think through and articulate areas where each of our six geopolitical zones can be leading or significant global players in the world economy of 2050. We must take learnings from the admirable global feats being achieved by our tribe of Nigerian creatives. In these areas we are producing for the world.
Just this weekend we saw how our American brethren were dancing to our artists at President Trumps daughter’s wedding. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, our Kizz Daniel is going to be one of the headline acts and our movies are all over Netflix. Only new growth areas will deliver prosperity. The drafters of our National Agenda 2050 have their work cut out.
As we create prosperity, we must share our prosperity amongst our people fairly, equitably and justly. We must think of and design our inclusion policies and programs to be prosperity enhancing. These policies must result in productive contribution and full economic participation by all Nigerian states, and all able-bodied Nigerians, towards a prosperous Nigerian State.
Our programmes must be aimed at levelling the playing field for traditionally excluded or disadvantaged groups – women, minorities, and people living with disabilities. We must also institute programs that deliver protection and care for the truly unable who through no fault of their own are unable to make a decent living.
This is how we must think about creating and sharing prosperity, as we engage in the Summit deliberations over the next two days. Before I return to my seat, may I respectfully mention three other things. Firstly, will our government by May 29, 2023, revisit the issues of fuel subsidy removal, review our exchange rate management policies, reduce the rate of borrowings and focus on revenue enhancement measures without stifling the private sector, and identify appropriate mechanisms for tackling inflation especially food inflation? I have assumed that the issues of security will continue to be decisively and effectively tackled.
Secondly, to sustain our turnaround our new government from May 29, 2023 must be ready for office and show an understanding of the critical issues. Accordingly, we must at this Summit reach a broad – based consensus on certain policies and issues that our leading contenders must subscribe to.
We will need a consensus on; national job creation agenda; accelerated human capital development; social protection and development; rebuilding and rejigging our institutions; effective, efficient and coordinated macroeconomic policy management; new national security architecture; heightened infrastructure development agenda, and clear, articulate and effective response to humanitarian issues.
Thirdly, as part of our ongoing contribution to national discourse, effective policy formulation and legislative reforms the NESG has established the Ernest Shonekan Centre for Legislative Reforms and Economic Development.
Ighodalo delivered this as opening statement and as the chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, at the 28th Nigerian Economic Summit on November 14, 2022.