It appeared a great relief but, when after five consecutive quarters of negative year-on-year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth dating back to the first quarter of 2016, the nation’s economy index grew by 0.55 per cent in the second quarter of 2017. From the records released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it represented an improvement on GDP performances in the preceding quarter by -0.91 percent as well as that in the corresponding 2016 quarter by -1.49 percent. According to them, the recovery was driven by improved performances in the oil, agriculture, manufacturing and trade sectors of the economy.
However, it became an issue when rather than the good tidings it was supposed to have been, it turned out a reverse. First it was followed up by a fury of doubt, the primary of which came from none other than President Buhari himself when he vouchsafed sentiments to the effect that he’d rather it reflected on the lives of the common man on the street than in the computers of the NBS. So much was the backlash that the Statistician-General of the Federation and Chief Executive Officer of the bureau had to take time to clarify the analysis, surmising that given its marginality, Nigerians will not feel the effect as immediately as they would have desired.
Like upon a time past, when we officially debated whether to take or refuse the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, it informally cast the nation in a debate mood about whether or not the nation’s economy had really navigated out of the waters of recession. As has become the norm since the ascent of our current ‘corrective’ regime, it somehow became a test of whether one was supportive of or opposed to the regime. In fact it had been at the core of the Statistician-General’s explanation as many had seen him and his team dancing to the tune of the government’s drumbeats.
But quite unlike in the aforementioned IMF debate past, when it was decreed that there was no alternative to the Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) of the then supervening military regime, respite has come from elsewhere. In its own release on the ‘debate’, the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) made bold to fault the NBS position based on the same statistics of theirs. In fact, they did not mince words in stating that our economy was yet rooted in recession – one so deep that exeunt from it will involve a plethora of initiatives yet unseen in the present setting.
According to NECA, while the year-on-year inflation ratio, for instance, moderated from 18.72 per cent to 16.05 per cent, several components of it still remained high. Thus, by them, the marginal growth recorded in that second quarter of 2017 was too weak and fragile for celebration. Rather than which they would want additional measures put in place to avoid the economy’s relapse into recession no sooner. They recommended ‘a strong implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to boost local and foreign investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy and generate additional investments critical to building a sustainable recovery’.
They based their submission on the premise that any GDP growth lower than 2 per cent will make no significant impact on poverty and unemployment against our population growth rate of 3.2 per cent. In fact, they unequivocally voiced their fear that the 2.19 per cent growth target set for 2017 in the ERGP appeared untenable for now. This, despite all the efforts by the Vice-President Osinbajo-led Presidential Enabling Business Council and its 60-day National Action Plan on the Ease of Doing Business in the country.
Voicing their surprise at the unabated rise in the cost of food items – 20.3 percent in July, 2017 – NECA rounds off with the supposition that it did not appear as though the ERGP rhetoric of making markets work, thereby leveraging private capital as the engine of growth has been matched by appropriate policy guarantees. As evinced by the dire situation they see in most economic sectors inclusive of manufacturing, trade, telecommunications, real estate, transport and various professional services.
A view echoed in the communiqué issued by the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) at the end of its All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State recently.
They stated that the media industry is still in recession, urging the Federal Government to enthrone a more favourable environment to make the sector boom.
All said, we at The AUTHORITY we believe that an economy in or out of recession does not need a microscope to be verified. All things being equal, all are agreed that whatever move our economy has made out of recession – if at all – is too marginal to call. Therefore, our economy minders should gird their loins some more to see that the country is steered to a more comfortable zone soonest.