Former President, Nigerian Economic Society (NEC), Akin Iwayemi, is a Professor of Economics at the University of Ibadan and served on the Economic Management Team of ex- President Goodluck Jonathan. He tells BANKOLE SHAKIRUDEEN ADESHINA in this interview that indices have shown that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is not doing well to strengthen the nation’s economy and rescue many from abject poverty.
What is your pass mark for this administration?
Well, it’s rather clearly unnecessary to begin to dish out evaluation marks. But one thing that is indisputable is that everybody is aware of what is going on in the country. We all know that the last two years have been very challenging for the people and the country in terms of economic survival. And you don’t have to be an expert to know that.
I think that the government didn’t put enough measures in place to cushion the strangulating effects of the challenges and I think this is due to lack of economic management strategies.
The honest truth is that it’s not in crisis you know the efficiency or otherwise of a manager. If things had been done properly prior and during this period, things wouldn’t be as worse as this.
The recession was one thing too many for Nigerians. The hardship it brought was overwhelming. Many homes were touched. And many have not clearly escaped the fang till today.
However, yes, we have exited the recession. But what are the robust economic plans we have put in place and the strategies we are adopting to catapult us into a first world country where we would be rubbing shoulders with regional and global economic powers? None, sadly.
You said the government has not done enough in terms of the efficient management of the economy. To what fact specifically are you speaking?
It took like forever before the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan of this government came out. And even after it did, the details of the plans are still yet to be fully understood. So, fine, you need a framework of what you want to do. But within this framework, there must be a basic element of how to do what you want to do within it. This would aid you to remain focused and keep tracks of what have been done and what are yet to be done.
Making general statement, to me is not the best. We need to be more definitive about what we are doing and what we have done.
Is the government’s Ease of Doing Business Policy, enshrined in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan not part of the inefficient economic management strategies you were expecting?
Certainly, it’s one of the key areas. And in fairness, I think the government is making a good effort in this regard. But there are other challenges in the economy that are quite negative; hence we need to take a look at them holistically.
For instance, electricity remains a great challenge in the country till today. Road infrastructure is equally a great challenge. Even if you are trying to minimize the challenges associated with doing business in the country, without addressing these two key areas, it would amount to nothing in the long run.
It is my personal belief that electricity should have been a primary focus. Once this is solved, the others would fall in line.
Wouldn’t you categorize the anti-corruption war as one of government’s adopted strategies to have a robust economy?
Certainly, anything that reduces corruption, because you can’t eliminate it is good anytime. But the bigger issue is how do we look at corruption? We have to look at it in a holistic way to score a good point.
However, I think the TSA policy has helped to reduce corruption significantly in the way of making it impossible to operate multiple bank accounts by some individuals and corporations.
How best do you think the fight against corruption can be fought?
It should be fought holistically. Once that is done, the campaign would earn more credibility and public support and cooperation. By embracing it, the public would have then believed that once the scourge is low, the government would have amassed more money and be able to appropriate it into different sectors of the economy that needs funding. And the result would no doubt make life easier for us all.
Under a holistic anti-corruption war, the government at all levels should educate and update the public about their spending and activities through periodic publishing of their stewardships.
By the time this becomes a government culture, the sense of transparency in government would have been registered in the subconscious of the people.
As a member of the Economic Management Team of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, what do you think ought to have been done differently to earn a better result by the current team?
Well, I wouldn’t want to dive straight into answering such a question because I’m not experiencing the same turbulence the current team is experiencing at the moment.
However, what I see and think is that any decision taken after the harmonization of robust debates by experts across public and private sectors of the economy will always yield a better result.
Do you then think the government is doing enough to take the economy to the next level?
I think the economy is not only dependent on the government, but including some stakeholders in the public and private sector. Therefore, what is important is a kind of collaboration between all the stakeholders for a better result. And all the parties must be willing to participate and help.
However, I think the government is not doing enough at the moment to improve the economy. My reason is that it is the key driver that provides the policy frameworks and incentives to achieve whatever goal set for the economy. And if it has primarily focused on electricity and road infrastructure and get it done with, the rest would have obediently fell in line.