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Govt Can’t Do Everything, Private Sector Can Do Better, Says Prof Ife

Oluwanifemi Abiola  
Updated May 18, 2022

A professor of Economics and International Finance expert, Ken Ife, on Wednesday called for the active involvement of the private sector in driving Nigeria’s economic development, particularly in critical areas such as the power sector, telecommunication, health, and human resources.

He said this during an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily while speaking about the nation’s economic challenges and prospects.

According to him, the way forward is for the government to know its limits.

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“Why are we expecting the government to do what we know the private sectors can do better and that’s the investment in human resources, investment in health. It is the private sector that would drive the health because health means insurance; it is insurance that pays for health in America, you know that you go to the UK, it’s the same,” he said.

“But we are not energising, releasing the space for the private sector to come and when they are coming, they have to come with investment and investment is the key for any economic development because it is an investment that increases economic activities, economic activities create jobs, jobs give you disposable income, with the disposable income, you can pay for health, education and poverty reduction.

“That’s the cycle, but we just think that government can do everything. The government can’t, it hasn’t even got the resources to do it. The government’s budget is only 7% of the GDP; where is the remaining 93%? It is domiciled in the private sector. So, we need to shift this argument.”

Taking the energy sector as an example of how the private sector can help, he made a comparison between Nigeria and two developing countries.

“When you come to the capital of power, Nigeria is four times the population of South Africa and they have 10 times more power than us which means there is a factor of 40 times,” he said.

While South Africa generates 58,000 megawatts, Nigeria is still struggling with 5,000 megawatts, he said.

The difference in fortunes, he said, is starker when the nation is compared to Brazil.

“Look at Brazil, exactly the same population as Nigeria, and they have well over 258,000 megawatts. So, you can see how many hundreds of times they are higher than Nigeria,” he said.

Professor Ife, who has over 30 years of experience in energy policy, shared how the power sector’s fortunes can be turned around.

Although costly blunders had been previously made, for him, the solution is not far-fetched.

“We made some important mistakes in the past but we can take power to the mass market so that you can unleash the potential of the private sector to provide power for themselves and to also sell their excess into the national grid. But it is getting difficult to convince the government of this,” he said.

One area Professor Ife believes the country has got right is policymaking. But he lamented that the same cannot be said of policy implementation.

“We have very good policies. Now, when you come to implementation, it collapses. Because part of the challenge in implementation is we have our own priorities; the government has its own priorities.

“For example, make sure you pay salaries, make sure you pay pensions, make sure you service the loans and the loans are getting very heavy, you must invest in security and the recurrent expenditure takes priority,” the professor said.

According to him, the way forward is for the government to know its limits.