The Big Ideas Podium is a national platform for public policy debates on burning and salient issues that affect or shape development or governance in Nigeria, West Africa, or the African continent. It is also an interactive platform where new voices are given traction and where established voices have opportunity to interact freely and to ensure that important lessons already learned are not wasted.
The March 2, 2017 Big Ideas Podium was anchored on the theme: “Nigeria: A prognosis for 2017”. The presentations and much of the discussions focussed on politics and economic governance issues -- especially with respect to the strengths and weaknesses of the Nigerian economy.
- The current government inherited a weak economy but has made it worse through its policies;
- The present Nigerian constitution was designed for the consumption of oil revenue. It cannot drive production and growth without restructuring;
- The delay in the passage of the 2016 budget was unhelpful to the national economy;
- There was consensus that the economy is currently in recession due both to the sharp decline in oil prices from 2012 and the decline in oil production due to militancy in the oil producing region. The immediate result was contraction in public sector revenue, manufacturing, imports, foreign exchange reserve, investment, household income, and consumption;
- Though domestic output and consumption are both compressed, government is unable to boost either because doing so has implications for foreign exchange in view of the degree of dependence of domestic economic activity on foreign inputs;
- It was also observed that the oil sector, which contributes about 10% only to the national GDP, has huge impact on the economy -- an indication that the Nigerian economy is fragile;
- Grand scale corruption has also contributed to the current economic difficulties;
- There is need for the restructuring of the political system, which is necessary to achieve economic diversification and resilience; and
- Macroeconomic stabilisation measures -- such as reducing or removing subsidies -- aggravate inflation while delays in policy actions in a number of areas (particularly, the foreign exchange market) create misalignment and lags in responses.
The Big Ideas Podium recommendations include:
- Economic Diversification: To minimize the adverse impact of recession the country needs to build resilience by diversifying the economy for better shock resistance;
- Restructuring and re-engineering of State and Local governments to make them engines for innovation and growth will contribute to economic and social resilience;
- Strong Policy Institutions: Independent policy institutions such as the CBN, BPE, Nigerian Police, EFCC, and the Judiciary must be allowed to carry out the work they were set up to do. They should not be seen to be operating under shadows;
- Forecasting/Time Series Data: Business cycles and recessions are associated with market economies and there should be preparations ahead of their occurrence, which can be forecast using time series data;
- Inclusive Government: There is need for citizen activism that would require elected governments to fulfill their election promises and implement election manifestos. Also guaranteeing citizens the right to hold the government to account through protests is the way to go as this will allow everyone a voice and make governance inclusive;
- Constitutional Changes: It has been observed that the present Nigerian constitution was designed for the consumption of oil revenues. Therefore, it cannot drive production and growth without restructuring;
- To aid increase in agricultural production, provision should be made in the budget for ending herdsmen/farmer conflicts which have been affecting agricultural output negatively;
- The measurement of GDP at the state level should be introduced to help assess the economic sustainability of each state in the country;
- The power reform road map must be sustained for continuous improvement in the performance of the sector and to support the growth of manufacturing and industrialisation;
- Adjustment of Educational Curriculum: Civics and History education must be brought back to schools to teach the duties of government and good citizenship, and to equip the population for a united and meaningful engagement with government; and
- Protection of Citizens: The state must do her best to protect people who want to express their views. Also, in places where peaceful demonstrators are killed and maimed by security forces, coroner’s inquests on the incidents should be set up and those found liable should be prosecuted.