Government needs to spend to revamp economy, says Jibril

Prof. Munzali Jibril

Prof. Munzali Jibril

Prof. Munzali Jibril is the President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). In an exclusive interview with BENJAMIN ALADE, he proffered some suggestions on how the economy can be restored and other issues. Excerpts:

Nigeria is currently in recession, how can the economy be revamped?
Government has to spend in order to revamp the economy. It is government that stimulates the economy. If you go to the market, the traders are complaining, the big businessmen are not happy, even workers are not happy because their salaries are not enough to meet their basic needs. Government is paying salaries and pensions but not spending on capital projects. We also need to build the structure of a new nation because the old structure can no longer hold. The economic system should be the one that will guarantee development and equity to all. Many of our youths are not employed and some of them don’t even have employable skills. That is a time bomb because social problems like Boko Haram, militancy, kidnapping, are all manifestations of youths that are not skilled, employed or both. Nigeria should be repackaged so that we can start on a new path of development.

At the long term, government should diversify the economy; you can’t diversify at the short term. If they can do something now, the impact would be felt by December. By the time the statistics is released by the Bureau of Statistics you will see that we would have moved from negative to positive, that is if the economy is reflated. But complaining and blaming the last administration will not take us anywhere. The National Assembly must also be watched. It has been computed that our assembly members are among the highest paid in the world. I think they are paid more than the Americans and Europeans. But human greed has no meter. The assembly members are very comfortable financially but they still want more. In other democracies in the world, the legislators are so proud of their job that they exchange their position for a ministerial appointment.

The present administration insists on diversifying the economy what is your view on this?
As a nation, 90 per cent of the foreign exchange is from oil and it doesn’t employ two per cent of the workforce. Agriculture which employs 70 per cent of the workforce brings so little in terms of money. But if we can go into large-scale mechanised agriculture, using improved seedlings, and also improve the quality of what we produce, wealth would thereafter be created. I believe that the diversification of the economy is imperative. States must also think out of the box and stop relying on federal allocation. At the moment, 27 states are said to be owing arrears of salaries, even when the federation account has never failed to remit money to them. Simply because money accrued to federation account has been reduced due to fall in oil prices, they cannot pay. It means if the Federal Government should fail to remit to the 36 states, the country will collapse. Only Lagos and a few other states are viable. So when you talk about diversification of the economy, it is not only the Federal Government, State Government should also look at how much money they are spending and scale down.

You identified mismanagement as one of the banes of the nation’s economy, do you think this administration is addressing the issue?
By fighting corruption, this administration is addressing mismanagement. But it is not enough to fight corruption, arrest people, jail them among other sanctions; by doing that; the government is just addressing the symptoms. They have to go to the root cause: why is it so easy for people to break rules and enrich themselves, to put their hands into government treasury and remove as much as they want. If President Obama should try to get $10,000 out of American government that is not his entitlement, he will lose his job. Everybody from the finance department in the White House to the treasury secretary will resist him. In Nigeria, if you stand up to your boss for doing something wrong, you are likely to be victimized, that is why I say we need to build a new nation and we should adopt International best practice. We should build strong institutions that will be stronger than individuals. If the President is doing something wrong, someone that is working under him should be able to tell him that he is wrong, and the person should also be protected. I believe we have to go beyond arresting people, recovering money and jailing people. We need to fundamentally change the ground rules. Though human greed is everywhere but if the risk of being caught is high and the sanctions are severe, you will think twice before attempting to loot the treasury.

The Federal Executive Council is seeking the approval of the National Assembly on external borrowing. What is your take on this?
The Minister of Finance has explained that the strategy for them to source loans is from the external market so as not to put pressure on the internal sources of supply of loans. Of course, the interest rate is also lower abroad though you have to pay in foreign currency. As far as the strategy is concerned, it makes sense, but I hope that we won’t go back into the debt trap that we got out from during President Obasanjo’s time.

The annual National Management Conference comes up later this month in Abuja what is the economic importance of this?
The theme of this year’s conference is: Building a new Nigeria: Strategic Options and Policy Imperatives. It is slated for 18th-20th September 2016 at International Conference Centre, Abuja. Professor Akinjide Osuntokun Pro-chancellor and Chairman Governing Council, Ekiti State University will be the main theme speaker.

Managing Director/CEO Citibank, Nigeria, Akin Dawodu, will be speaking on Diversification of the Nigerian Economy while former Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu will be speaking on minimising corruption in public life.

As always, the institute support government in finding lasting solutions to challenges of governance. At the end of the day, the conference is expected to highlight issues which the institute will pass on to government to aid it in achieving its change agenda aimed at moving the country on the path of sustainable development. Apart from the intellectual brainstorming and discourse, the institute will also confer its fellowship grade on Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode and other deserving members at the conference.

You will notice that we have recorded laudable achievements in the area of professional management, capacity building, consultancy, re-engineering and human capital development, strategic training with the National Youth Service Corps; The Young Managers’ Competition and strategic training partnerships with foreign universities and institutes for Top Executive Leadership Programme (TELP). For corps members, we have also taken a decision to improve the training further by including something to do with how to package your CV and also how to perform well at an interview to sell yourself because we discovered that these are skills they are lacking

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