Making Vision 2020 still possible

We all know that Nigeria’s vision to become one of the world’s 20 largest economies by 2020 has attracted endless debates. So far, the pessimists are dominating. Not only because most people agree that it’s an ambitious vision lacking well-articulated and implementable plans, let alone the political will, there seems to be more clear justifications to be on the side of the pessimists.

But why should they be winning in a nation with a history of countless failed visions? In other words, why should anyone disagree with the pessimists’ conclusion that it is going to be easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Nigeria’s Vision 2020 to be even realised halfway?

And with the fact on the ground, certainly, it’s agreeable that beyond the usual crowded committees, expensive conferences and workshops, where beautiful speeches are made, plagiarising similar visions elsewhere, those in charge of this vision have not shown serous strategic and tactical plans that are rigorously time-bound, financial-bound, and execution-bound to prove to us that their Vision 2020 dream isn’t our usual daydreams.

Or, who should believe such a dream of becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020 when we’re have yet to even break away from our usual culture of “because it is difficult, we can’t do it, and because it requires risk and sacrifice, we should never ever confront it head-on ourselves, but should hand it to some aliens to provide the lead while we beat our chests in conferences?”

Notwithstanding the belatedness of putting this dream on the right track, there is still a window of opportunity to realise this dream. In other words, if there is nothing impossible for a determined people with determined leaders providing the political will, if we’re truly serious this time around, we should first have to do away with the defeatist mentality that has kept us where we are today.

Doing the right thing should start with the President who should waste no time in taking the vision back to the drawing board.

First, President Goodluck Jonathan should sack his economic management team and replace the members with more competent, practical and patriotic Nigerians who’re ready to do whatever it takes to drive the dream drastically forward. Rather than this textbook economic management team, Jonathan should follow the footsteps of Franklin D. Roosevelt who on becoming America’s president in 1933 at a time that country was caught up in a great depression, looked for rather bizarre Americans — men and women, who’re not only mentally multifaceted goal-getter, but also patriotically tough. While doing away with our so-called technocrats, Jonathan shouldn’t forget Deng Xiaoping’s advice, ‘’It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.’’

Having assembled the right economic team, the President should reread the vision to the new team which he should present as a matter of life-and-death for his administration. Joining G20 by 2020 at all costs means that this rigorously practical plan should besides being project-targeted, should also be able to find the money; this is in addition to creating millions of jobs for Nigerians.

Since joining G20 requires increasing the country’s $285bn GDP to between $900bn and $1000bn by 2020, the Vision 2020 dream should be based on the country’s far-reaching industrialisation and economic diversification, a strategy that should be comprehensively detailed with measurable economic growth rates, averaging 18 per cent. Drastically reducing the country’s present high cost of doing business along with increasing the country’s competitiveness, currently among the world’s worst, should require an economic master plan that truly and measurably makes Nigeria the world’s leading investment destination without sacrificing local content as the ultimate driver of local entrepreneurs.

To reduce our over $250bn infrastructure deficit, the Vision 2020 master plan should present a bill that mandates government to seek loans from the most competitive external sources, and done so only for capital projects for up to 100 per cent of the country’s GDP, which means that government borrowing should be at either London Interbank Offer Rates or US Treasury Bonds Rates. That will require a law by the apex lawmakers that will ban government from any form of domestic borrowing so that domestic borrowing is only for the country’s real sector firms.

But to drastically increase capital spending, there’s the need to increase internally generated revenues with the goal of making the IGR by law the only source of recurrent spending, while externally generated revenues, coming mostly from crude oil sale should be spent on infrastructure that should translate into lowering the cost of doing business in the country, which is the only way to mobilise the country’s real sector economy as the driver of growth and job creation.

For this reason, the 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act which permitted agencies of government to only remit one-fifth of their operating surpluses as contained in Section 22 (1) and (2) should be deleted, and replaced with mandatory remittance of 100 per cent of their internally generated revenues to government treasury without any drawing power since their expenses are by law only covered through appropriation.

But for this to be realised, the master plan should ban those goods that if given the support should be locally made while imposing high invisible tariffs on those that require relocation of factories from foreign countries  to Nigeria. In other words, if insistence on leaving the World Trade Organisation is seen as a difficult trade policy, at least some draconian invisible tariffs could be imposed on most imported goods to give some breathing space to our infant industries and pursued against the current foreign goods dumping.

Our 170 million consumer market is a unique weapon that if we maximise it, no doubt, most of today’s businesses dumping their goods in Nigeria, finding the market difficult to penetrate from outside, could lead to unprecedented relocation of their factories to the country to take advantage of the huge market and the growing lowering of the cost of doing business in the country.

But for such scramble coming with sky-rocketing growth to eventually catapult the country to the G20, no foreigner should be allowed to open a retailing business in Nigeria without Nigerians being co-owners in a way that not less than 51 per cent of the ownership and not less 80 per cent of the goods should be sourced locally.

The naira should be drastically devalued along with interest rates forcefully brought to a single digit so as to ensure that locally made goods begin to be cheaper than the imported ones. This long overdue naira devaluation should be forced on the Central Bank of Nigeria by the National Assembly since the makers of monetary policy seem determined in their narrow pursuit of neoliberal tight monetary policies that by keeping the naira high overvalued our real sector firms are priced out of business since an excessively valued naira coupled with high interest rate regime only makes foreign made goods cheaper.

Such a strategic master plan should establish 36 light industrial parks in the 36 states of the federation along with six heavy industrial clusters in the six geopolitical zones. Also, the plan should include mandatory monthly building of a minimum of one model factory in a strategic industry by each state and should either sell it off or lease it out to seasoned businessmen and women, using mortgage arrangement. A federal model factory inspectorate should be in place to ensure public investments in model factories are fully protected.

The plan should come up with creative ways of mainstreaming and transforming the country’s millions of informal businesses into organised businesses that benefit from government’s infant industry protection and promotion through industrialisation incentives to small businesses as well as to make them taxpayers and job creators.

Mainstreaming millions of small businesses will unleash the latent competitive spirit aroused in our army of informal business owners whose transformation into budding entrepreneurs is needed if we intend to achieve high economic growth driven by unprecedented multiplier and trickle-down effects. This, no doubt, is the quickest way of reducing the country’s high level poverty and social disenfranchisement.

The new plan should be designed with the country’s health care and education fully in mind by making sure that one national hospital, with not less than a 1000 rooms, is built in each of the six geopolitical zones along with one world-class research university. Also, both an international academic city and global hospital village should be sited in Nigeria, where leading research universities like the MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, etc as well as global hospital chains, should be persuaded to take advantage of Nigeria’s 170 million markets by locating Nigerian campuses.

Inviting states to come up with their versions of the Vision 2020 state plans, plans to become the number one state economy in Nigeria by 2020, should be encouraged by insisting that going forward, all the states should be in a position to finance their recurrent spending with internally generate revenues while deploying federally allocated revenues into developing the infrastructure that should make them emerge 1:2020 among the 36 states of the federation.

For instance, states like Lagos and Rivers should be competing over which would emerge as Nigeria’s financial capital hub by 2020; Kano, Abia, Anambra, and Ogun competing over Nigeria’s industrial centre by 2020; Delta, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, and Edo over Nigeria’s number one petrochemical focal point; and Enugu, Oyo, Imo, Osun, and Kaduna competing over the cultural and knowledge capital. While competing for Vision 1:2020 could be messier, it remains to be the best way to go in ranking the 36 states on the basis of Gross State Product.

Besides using every instrument available to the state to fight corruption at all levels, Vision 2020 and 1:2020 plans should require comprehensive overhauling of Nigeria’s obsolete tax policy. Not only by raising import tariffs to raise government revenues but also that should be done raising income, corporate and value-added taxes as well as property tax and liquor and cigarette tax. Introduction of a national biannual automobile plate renewal levy, and capital gain tax on stocks should be high on government’s IGR agenda.

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