Without doubt, the recent launching in Abuja of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the federal government after all the waiting is a thing to gladden the heart of every patriotic citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Ever since the present administration took office more than two years ago, it has been the wish of all that they leave an economic blueprint behind their various – sometimes ambivalent – pronouncements to no avail. This was to become expedient following the onset of our present economic recession, thus, making the plan most timely.
Ever since its birth, though, éclat for it has been a little to the left, a little to the right. According to details released by Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning it is supposed to – within its three-year lifespan (2017-2020) – achieve the repositioning of the economy by putting it back on the path of growth. By it, with daily oil production averaging at 2.5 million barrels, yearly export earning growing to about 800 billion Naira and an expected realization of about 35 billion Naira via the sale of national assets that include oil joint ventures as well as reduction of stakes in oil and no-oil assets, nothing appears be blocking its path to the diadem.
What is more! Apart from zeroing in on better private and public sector efficacy, the plan hopes to see tax collection increased to 350 billion Naira annually. This will be achieved partly through the increase of tax on luxury goods from the present 5% to 15% by 2018. Also the control on 41 goods since 2015 is scheduled to continue. There will also be a programmed upscale of our agricultural production with a view to being self sufficient in rice by 2018, wheat in 2019 and exporting rice, cashew, groundnuts, cassava and vegetable oil by 2020.
Majorly, early critics of the plan have zeroed in on the overall macroeconomic plan of the government. Like the Emir of Kano Alhaji Sanusi II did point out even as the plan was been flagged off, the present administration’s economic policy was doomed from the start. Speaking at this year’s Kaduna Economic Summit, on the theme ‘Promoting Investments in the Midst of Economic Challenges’, he wondered out loud how they would achieve any magic after spending 66% of our revenue on interest payments on debts thus leaving only 34% available for capital and recurrent expenditure.
Speaking on the recovery plan itself, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Labor Congress Dr Peter Eson-Ozo pointed out that it did not endeavor in any way to target the grassroots whom he felt were not sufficiently engaged in the prelude to the plan. According to him, what was done was to draw the plan and present to the public, instead of involving them from its conceptualization. He was however, optimistic that the nation was bound to end on a sure economic footing if ‘the policies evolved work in the direction of the anticipated objectives’.
Other pundits think of its lifespan – spanning across the first tenure of the government – as untowardly presumptuous. As though they – as they took over – respected the plan the government they defeated at the polls had positioned. In turn, this hinges on the fact that they had to wait two years to put a plan in place. Something, many have argued, ought to have been done as they campaigned for office. An outright impossibility, given the months it took them to constitute the federal cabinet.
Also linked to the above is the truism that the country, irrespective of under whose watch it was, always had a development or whatever plan in place. The list is endless – from the well-celebrated development plans after independence, to the Three Rs at the end of the civil war; up until the likes of Vision 2020, National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) and Vision 20:2020. This implies that the release of whatever plan does not have to count as much as its implementation. Not unlike previously, the effort, as many have opined, should be at making sure that possible targets are set as well as making sure that they are met as and when due.
Here at The Authority, believe that the Ministry of Budget and Planning is peopled with folks with listening ears.
As the plan enfolds, they should therefore never refrain from ensuring that they engage in the necessary checking and balancing that will make the achievement of the laudable aims of the plan surmountable. This is most pertinent because the entire nation is waiting to see where they will steer us to on account of having hit rock bottom in desperation due to the economic recession. As it stands, they can never take under achievement lying low any more, the more so given the corrective nature of this administration.