Osinbajo discusses jobs, energy, economy at Nigerian Economic Summit
By Yemi Olakitan
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who represented the President on Monday at the opening ceremony of this year’s National Economic Summit, says Nigerian faces a challenging task that calls for collaboration, creative thinking, and most importantly, disciplined implementation on the part of both the public and private sectors. This is due to the country’s pressing national and global economic challenges as well as new local and global trends.
The Vice President was speaking at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja, where he officially opens the 28th Nigerian Economic Summit.
The Presidential address focused on important issues to drive growth and prosperity, including the National Development Plan 2021–2025 and the effects of the Economic Sustainability Plan, among others, in line with the Summit’s theme of “2023 & Beyond: Priorities for Shared Prosperity.”
In order to provide more jobs for Nigerians, particularly its youth, and raise national revenue for future development, the vice president also emphasized the need for increased productivity and value addition across many sectors of the economy.
In his speech, the vice President emphasized important issues like youth development, improving macroeconomic conditions, the effects of climate change, the necessity of a just transition to net-zero emissions, a debt-for-climate swap deal for African countries, and the introduction of the African Carbon Market Initiative at the currently taking place COP-27 in Egypt.
It also concentrated on the need to enhance social welfare programmes and priorities investment in the nation’s youth, as well as the employment of disruptive technologies through digitalization for further economic advancements.
The vice president asserts that “more conscious and focused investment in our youth is needed, particularly in globally marketable skills, access to credit, protection of innovators’ and inventors’ intellectual property rights, and access to international markets. I am confident that several of these topics will receive further in-depth consideration during this summit.’’
He stated that the work at hand required collaboration, creative thinking, but most crucially, disciplined implementation.
The vice president emphasized the improvement in macroeconomic conditions, saying, “On the bright side, the economy continues to thrive, with GDP growth at 3.54% in the second quarter of this year. Strategic revenue efforts, such as the yearly Finance Act, have helped non-oil revenues improve in a similar way.
However, given that our debt to GDP ratio is only 23%, our revenue issues continue to heighten the perception that we have a debt problem.
Prof. Osinbajo noted that although the nation’s current debt service to revenue ratio is high, the establishment of the Debt Management Office means that we are now better able to adopt strategies to manage our debt, such as using more concessional loans, spreading out our debt maturities, and refinancing short-term debt with longer-term debt instruments.
According to him, this is why boosting revenue should get the majority of the focus.
“Our non-oil revenues have already improved significantly, but now we need to concentrate on productivity or promote value addition. The production of traceable value through productivity and value addition results in jobs, opportunities, and increased tax receipts.
“To increase productivity, we must free up our environment for business, make local and international trade easier by fixing the ports, implement the National Single Window, revamp our Customs processes and Tariff codes to reduce delays and arbitrariness, and remove unnecessary restrictions on imports to enable value-added processes,” he continued.
The future, according to Prof. Osinbajo, “are the jobs and prospects from the green economy,” he noted, emphasizing that Nigeria must capitalize on its advantage in renewable energy.
The VP stated that the “Solar Power Naija programme, established under the Economic Sustainability Plan, will contribute in this respect. It is designed to reach 5 million solar hookups, benefiting over 25 million Nigerians. However, the impact also includes business prospects for those who manufacture and manage solar installations and equipment.
In addition, he emphasized regional security and economic issues as well as worldwide political, economic, and social unrest, including the conflict in the Ukraine and Russia. He also noted how these tensions were “impacting Africa, including through higher food prices and disruptions to democratic governance.”
The Vice President stated that “it is clear that our work is cut out and we have to choose our priorities going forward very carefully” due to the challenges posed by climate change, which has caused flooding in several states in Nigeria and the effects of COVID-19 on the global economy, which are still being recovered. There is a wide range of issues that need our attention, and the National Development Plan for 2021 to 2025 does a good job of capturing many of them.
Regarding the country’s exchange rate volatility, Prof. Osinbajo said that “the discussion that we must have, shorn of sentiments, is how to best manage the situation by creating a method for raising supply and restraining demand, which will be transparent and build confidence.”
The vice president also underlined the necessity of taking immediate action to lower inflation, stressing that it both taxes the poor and impedes long-term progress.
Prof. Osinbajo said that in addition to the financial measures being implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria, “we would need to expand domestic food production and guarantee that it reaches to the market.”
In this regard, he said, “we must pay more attention to the institutional insight of the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), which sought to support small scale farmers by ensuring uptake of their production by enabling larger farmers, suppliers to manufacturing companies, and commodity exchanges to support them across every stage of production.”
Regarding how climate change is affecting regional economies, the vice president reaffirmed Nigeria’s stance on the need for equitable transition and debt-for-climate swap agreements, saying that “these swaps can be a win-win for debtors and creditors.”