THERE have been numerous studies and debates around the world as to how much influence presidents have on the economy but regardless of the outcome of such studies and the differing views in the debates, the stark reality is that President Buhari will be judged based on the economy aside from security and the fight against corruption.
No doubt President Buhari has repeatedly stated that he has security, the fight against corruption and jobs creation through the economy as his top priorities but the president has to pay proper attention to the economy. This writer seeks to emphasise the importance of fixing the economy and rescuing Nigeria from its dire economic and fiscal straits.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, the Obasanjo, Yar’ Adua and Jonathan administrations have tried to put Nigeria on the path of economic prosperity with their different economic plans, initiatives and strategies but the Nigerian economy has failed to move towards the expected level of development and that is why the Buhari administration must lay a strong foundation for a steady economic growth with an economic development initiative geared towards the industrialisation of Nigeria over the next 20 to 30 years—as the economy is critical to poverty reduction, jobs creation, prosperity, infrastructural development and improved standard of living.
Contrary to widespread belief that things will naturally fall into place with the appointment of ministers, our antecedent has shown that these appointments alone do not translate into the desired outcomes except there is a deliberate attempt on the part of members of the administration to work towards the implementation of the economic initiatives of the new government and genuinely dedicate their time, effort and energies towards its success. Most ministerial appointments have only been consolation prizes while only a handful of past ministers have been able to make their mark. The impact of important ministries such as Mines and Steel Development, Science and Technology, Transportation, Power and Finance are yet to be felt on the economy. It is for this reason that the Buhari administration need to have an economic development strategy taking into account certain sectors of the economy that are central to rapid economic development.
It is a shame that our economy has been import dependent for so many years that we have to import simple items such as toothpick. We have helped to grow the economies of countries like India, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and Mexico who were in our league by importing their goods and creating jobs for their citizens. Now is the time to resuscitate the manufacturing sector. President Buhari should begin with the textile and clothing industry by reviving it and providing players in this industry with tax cuts and incentives in order to meet the needs of millions of Nigerians who have to depend on the importation of textile materials year in year out. Other stakeholders in the manufacturing sub-sector should also be encouraged by providing them with an enabling business environment and open up opportunities for investment. Adequate and consistent investment in science and technology will also compliment efforts aimed at reviving the manufacturing sector.
With our current economic challenges and poor economic indices, there is a general consensus that there is a need to diversify the economy away from petroleum. And one area with huge potentials is the mining and steel industry which has not been fully tapped by successive administrations. Nigeria is blessed with mineral resources such as iron ore, coal, limestone, lignite, tin, gold, among others. It is high time President Buhari developed this sector. One wonders what the ministry of mines and steel development has been up to since its establishment. We need to seek the help of industrialised nations to mine our reserves for economic growth and job creation. It is a good development that China is currently investing in steel production for Nigeria. Other foreign investors should also be welcomed by the Buhari administration.
Another area of focus for President Buhari is rail transportation. Though the immediate past administration made some investments in this area but this project cannot move us into the future. What is needed at this point in our economic life are high speed trains that can connect major cities in Nigeria. This will enhance trade and investment and also provide haulage as the transportation of goods across the country without an effective rail transport has put a lot of pressure on our roads leading to bad roads and causing numerous accidents with too many lives lost. The Buhari administration must also reform the aviation sector. Investments in this sector over the years have not translated into improved standards due to massive corruption. The standard and operations of airports across the country is an eyesore. President Buhari however needs to revamp our rail, road and air transportation.
It will, therefore, be foolhardy for any government whether present or future to place less emphasis on the imperative of developing the Nigerian economy on a steady basis over the long term.