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Rotimi Bello: Year 2021 and the setting of New Economic Agenda

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By Rotimi Bello

The year 2020 will always be remembered globally as a terrible year owing to the pandemic that altered and affected the world in many ways. For Nigerians, the pandemic had its dents; but the enormous challenges posed by the high level of insecurity and violence across the country is another important ugly highlight of the year 2020.

In this regard, it was a locust year, full of mystery, sadness, and inordinate loss of life orchestrated by the elements behind insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and killer herdsmen whose nefarious activities affected all parts of the country.

For Nigerians, the year will be remembered for compulsory usage of face masks and hand sanitizers, continuous washing of hands, maintenance of social distance, and unprecedented total lockdown of the economic, social, educational, and even political activities. It will be remembered for the spread of the unabated COVID 19 pandemic and the total lockdown that caused rising inflation and an astronomical rise in the price of foodstuffs and services in Nigeria.

On the economic front, Nigerians will remember 2020 for the incessant increment of fuel price, electricity tariff, Value Added Tax (VAT) and other taxes that they were made to pay despite the hardship brought upon them by the pandemic that plunge the economic into recession. These economic arrows shot against Nigerians by government that failed to assist them during the pandemic exacerbated hardship.

Trying to envision the Nigerian economy in the year 2021, it is important that President Buhari (PMB) assembles a  strong economic team to develop robust policies and a workable all-inclusive framework to turn around the economy so that the country will vault out of recession.

The little gain recorded in the agriculture sector could be sustained and widely broaden to accommodate new entrants. Our moribund textile companies need to be resuscitated since Nigerians have embraced local fabrics and are proudly wearing our native attires to all occasions. The market is huge and the money spent on the importation of textiles materials could be retained in our economy. It is on record that Nigeria had one of the best cotton wool varieties to make clothes. Why can’t we revive it?

Entrepreneurship is the bedrock of the modern economy. Nigeria must tap into an innovation-driven economy to assist its youth and grow its economy. Germany’s economy is entrepreneurial-based and innovative driven. The graduating youth who could not secure a job in Germany could assess loans to venture into businesses. The only collateral needed is the original university certificate. Accordingly, the amount an individual is entitled to vary and is determine by the level of one’s education.

The German policymakers embraced this scheme when they realized that the available resources of their country cannot create jobs and wealth for everybody. Thus, the youth are geared up and encouraged to use their creative mind to solve myriad societal problems through entrepreneurialism.

The recent banking approach of lending their customer money for business or salary in advance should be encouraged with a minimum percentage below 1.75% currently charged by GT Bank and others. Survival Fund Program should be objectively and sincerely carried out to reach the target audience Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in order to boost the economy. Equally, TRADER-MONI should be holistically reviewed to bypass the middlemen who profit from the scheme at the detriment of the market men and women who are the target of this lofty program created for social integration. The low-cost housing scheme, studio apartments should be encouraged to be built for the low-income earners with a scheme of rent and own to ameliorate the shortage and backlog of housing in our major cities like Abuja, Lagos, and Port Harcourt.

Current effort in road construction and repair management, railroad track laying to connect the 36 states should be sustained and fast-tracked to reduce the pressure on our major highway. The little success recorded in the transportation sector, which culminated in the laying of 156km Lagos-Ibadan double-track standard gauge rail is commendable.

Strenuous effort should be made to start work on phase two Ibadan to Jebba, phase three Jebba to Kaduna, and lastly Kaduna to Kano. Nigeria needs a superhighway express from Lagos to Abuja and Lagos to Port Harcourt. This could be done through multistakeholder governance which is a key target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. By this, I mean Public-Private Partnership (PPP, 3P), a cooperative arrangement between the government and private sectors to work together on a project to provide infrastructure services to the population on the basis of sharing profits and liability.

Nigeria is lagging in the area of infrastructural development comparable to our pairs like Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Singapore, South Korea, and Brazil who have gone beyond our level in all major developmental indexes.

Our projected population explosion of 460 million by 2050 is worrisome and should not be treated with kid gloves. By now, one expects the Federal Ministry of National Planning and Health to come out with a robust action plan to reduce procreation, most especially in the rural areas across the country, and notably, the northern part of the country where more than 80% of people are reportedly said to be living below the poverty level.

In all this, it is the electricity and iron production and manufacture frontiers that I see that our crystal ball is cloudiest as far as our economy is concerned base on my own imaginative thought. These are the two drivers of economic development. All the major superpowers rely on iron and steel production for their sophisticated hardware and military equipment. However, with the integrated and systematic approach by our leaders, there could be a black swan in this angle.

Mr. Fashola’s recent outburst about the sordid deal in the privatization of electricity company by the previous government of President Jonathan and the possibility of not renewing the certificate of non-performing transmission company may further complicate the already bad situation of erratic electricity supplies in the country.

Finally, the security of lives and properties should be effectively tackled in the country, specifically in the northern part of the country where bandits, kidnappers, and insurgents prevent the farmers from planting and harvesting agricultural products and breeding animal husbandry. In a nutshell, an all-inclusive security policy should be put in place by the government to mend the broken barriers, and to assuage all Nigerians of its readiness to secure their lives and properties across the country.

Rotimi S. Bello wrote this piece from Abuja via rotimibello_69@yahoo.com