As campaigns officially begin ahead of the 2023 general elections, economic wizards have set agenda for the 16 presidential candidates who are jostling to take up Aso Rock’s top job after President Muhammadu Buhari whose two terms of eight years will end by May 29, 2023.
According to them, the candidates must focus on providing business-friendly policies, new economic direction, debt rescheduling, address currency crisis, stem inflation, ensure privatisation of state enterprises and open market economy to reduce unemployment
The economists spoke during Channels Forum, a special programme by Channels Television to celebrate Nigeria’s 62nd Anniversary Day Celebration.
They include the Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane; as well as economy experts Biodun Adedipe and Paul Alaje.
Rewane said politicians are compromised and lacked sincerity to address Nigeria’s economic woes, noting that the currency instability in the country today is as a result of a crisis of confidence
“Involuntary change in Nigeria has been more effective than voluntary change. Nigerians do things when they have to do it not when want to do it. We are at a point where we can no longer continue the way it is. Your debt problem, your multi-dimensional problem, your lack of opportunity, the growing irrelevance of OPEC and the obsolescence of oil and the fact that the main oil production has become the fringe, the fringe has become the main. In order words, oil theft is more than oil production,” he said.
On the way forward, Rewane said Nigeria’s next president must liberalise exchange rate. “You’ve got to accept that the exchange rate has to be liberalised because in any case, anything is being priced today from tomatoes to yam to oranges is being priced with the exchange rate in mind. 76% of the inflation rate in Nigeria, causative factor comes from the exchange rate,” he said.
“You have to reschedule your debt profile to invest in total factor and labour productivity,” the economist noted whilst he knocked Nigerian Government officials who went to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month. According to him, government officials are not sincere in their call for debt cancellation due to their ostentatious lifestyles.
On his part, Alaje agreed with Rewane that Nigerians have lost faith in the economy due to insincere leadership.
“When you lose faith in something, you don’t put your mind to it and it shows in where you spend your money. Nigerian economy is struggling today because we really don’t believe in it,’ he noted.
The economist said at the moment, $40bn is being used to import both education and health in contrast to what was obtainable in the days of old where the University Teaching Hospital attracted foreign patients.
“Nigeria is being battered on two sides, one on inflation, over 20% which means your N1,000 last year is now automatically less than N800. The second one which is even worse is exchange rate.
“The man coming must be able to explain in clear terms, what he is going to do with exchange rate, subsidy, these are topic that politicians don’t want to touch but you must discuss it,” Alaje said.
Also, Adedipe said, “One critical thing that I will expect the frontline contenders for that office to start with is a vision for the economy.”
According to him, the economic vision of Nigeria must transcend four years and be about how to transform the economy in the next 10 years beyond the tenure of a single President.
“That vision must be compelling enough for Nigerians to also understand it; which means is not about casting the vision but also communicating it well so we know where you are going.
“That will look at what kind of economy we want. Is it going to be export-led growth we are going to? Or are we look inward? Or we are looking at unemployment? What creative approach do you want to introduce? It is not enough to say in the next 10 years you are going to create jobs and whatever but specifics; how would that be done? In such a way that is measurable for periodic scorecards,” Adedipe said.