POLICY OPTIONS FOR ACHIEVING A ROBUST ECONOMY IN NIGERIA

Toyin Odesomi, Lagos

The Nigerian economy has plummeted to an unhealthy state in recent time courtesy of the downward slide in global crude oil prices. From its peak of One hundred and fifteen Dollars a barrel two years ago, it has continued to hover between the Twenty-five and Forty-four Dollar point since the beginning of this year. Added to this, are the myriads of economic sabotage in the form of wastage and diversion of public funds, oil installations and pipelines vandalism and piracy. These have seen the nation’s economy dithering into recession.

Economic experts and policy makers have been engaged in renewed efforts at rejuvenating the economy. The nation’s economy think tank are drawing up both short and long term policies and measures to get it back on track and guide it on the path of growth and sustainable development. The experts have indicated that the goals would be achieved by changing the country’s over reliance on earnings from crude oil.

The present government is therefore shifting attention to non-oil revenue sources, among them mining, agriculture, ICT and other viable but previously neglected sectors, in the quest to make the economy more vibrant.

The 2016 budget proposal charts the course for Nigeria to not only manage the current external economic turbulence but to also set the stage for strong, sustainable and inclusive growth.

As the government implements the budget, it would serve the economy well to ramp up infrastructure spending, reduce existing inefficiencies in public expenditures as well as stimulate economic growth, increase competitiveness and improve human development. There must be a clear objective to deploy the expected economic gains to increase the welfare of Nigerians, including reducing youth unemployment and extreme poverty.

Due attention must also be paid to the exchange rate policy to ensure that the Naira conveniently adjusts to the strength of export earnings. This measure would give room for exchange rate stability.

Economic experts believe that the real sector of the economy, the manufacturing sector must be given priority attention, through deliberate policies to expand local production capacity. This could be achieved with effective trade policies that would revive moribund industries and discourage importation of certain goods and items, which would in turn promote the ”Made in Nigeria” brand. Such trade policies would stimulate investment in specific sectors of the economy where Nigeria has comparative advantage such as in the agriculture sector and other newly-focused non-oil sectors.

However, as much as the country targets the non-oil sectors as its major source of revenue, experts are of the view that the oil and gas sector must not be completely overlooked. A full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector would attract desired investments to the sector. The long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill must be enacted to promote local content development and create employment opportunities in the sector.

With the resolve of the present government to operate on a lean purse and run on cost-effective economic policies by targeting losses, it is expected that the newly formulated policies would transform the Nigerian economy to leap in growth and restore it to its pride of place as the giant economy of Africa.

 

A.E