Translating Tinubu’s 8-point agenda to recovery


AFTER three months of haphazardness, President Bola Tinubu is finally cobbling together a coherent economic plan. The three-year economic revival plan that emerged from his inaugural Federal Executive Council meeting and anchored on an ‘Eight-Point Agenda,’ is targeted at addressing Nigeria’s socioeconomic challenges. Though the plan has not been fleshed out with details, sector-specific targets, and timelines, it suggests that impulsiveness is giving way back to planning, preparation, and consultation.

Tinubu told the ministers to deliver the first phase of agenda within three years, reminding them of the prevailing adversity, unemployment, insecurity, and poverty.

The highlights as provided by the administration’s economic point man, Wale Edun, are food security; poverty eradication; growth, job creation; access to capital; inclusion; rule of law; and fighting corruption.

It seeks to move away from the frenzied borrowing of the last government, check the “unacceptably high” jobless rate, achieve economic growth, “prosperity for all,” and end poverty.

Translating these into desirable results is the challenge, particularly the promise to create 50 million jobs. As Tinubu and the ministers noted, the country is in a bad position. Inflation has risen even higher on the twin triggers of petrol subsidy stoppage and consequent higher pump prices, and the unification of official and parallel exchange rates that has pummelled the naira. Inflation was 24.08 per cent in July, the highest since 2005.

Unemployment is reckoned by global agencies at over 40 per cent, and the youth segment at 53.4 per cent. With $1 exchanging for N915-N920 at the parallel market, and petrol, diesel, and other lubricants prices skyrocketing, there is no respite yet.

Manufacturing production value shed N720 billion in 2022, reported the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, from N7.39 trillion in 2021 to N6.67 trillion in 2022. MAN blamed the harsh operating environment, record inflation, high interest rates, high energy costs, forex illiquidity, multiple taxation, and raw materials scarcity. Along with the power quagmire, and insecurity, these are the problems the Tinubu team needs to solve very quickly.

There are encouraging signals: one is his emphasis on ministerial performance. Tinubu’s message that their appointments are based on service-delivery and can be revoked any time is welcome. For 24 years, the system has been tolerating an endless stream of corrupt, underperforming ministers. He should as he has promised, promptly sack failures.

The recognition of its people and its youth as “Nigeria’s most important asset” should be taken effectively beyond rhetoric through stimulus programmes, inclusivity, training and skills acquisition and entrepreneurship, and provision of free education up to secondary level, and affordable higher education. Job creation should be the preeminent objective of all economic plans.

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But there were some important things yet left unsaid or not emphasised. Unlike his predecessors, Tinubu should reach for the low-hanging fruits of privatisation and concessions, liberalisation, and cost-cutting.

Already, he is repeating the mistake of holding on to the four moribund state-owned refineries, a recipe for failure. Privatise them without any further delay transparently and targeting reputable players. Similarly, immediately privatise Ajaokuta Steel Company and all other steel sector assets. Yet another plan to “revive” ASC is guaranteed self-subversion.

Then, liberalise the railway sector to free the industry for foreign investment inflow for cargo haulage, instead of the politically-influenced passenger routes being built with endless Chinese loans.

Tinubu must drastically slash the cost of governance; reduce the armies of political aides and appointees, slash the Presidential Air Fleet, the number of ministries, departments, and agencies, extend the curb on foreign trips, and radically reduce luxuries and vehicle purchases.

Budgeting should henceforth be based on needs, not the corruption-driven ‘envelope’ system that facilitates the theft of public funds from the budgeting stage.

There should be effective stimulus for SMEs and start-ups, especially access to low-interest credit, power, and access roads. Insecurity needs to be tamed.

Solving the power crisis must be a priority. Tinubu should rally the 36 state governments to transform to self-reliant, autonomous productive units with their own economic plans and targets. He should lead the campaign for restructuring, without which the country cannot leap.

He should promptly hammer out the details, set realisable targets, and partner with the private sector. Above all, he should stop the massive systemic financial leakages and fight corruption tenaciously and strategically. ,

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