Due to the lingering economic recession, job losses, high unemployment rate and hunger among others, several socio-economic groups and the Nigeria Labour Congress have said President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policies are not working and advised him to come up with “workable” alternatives.
They said if the President’s economic policies were effective, unemployment rate and hunger would have reduced among Nigerians, and companies wouldn’t have had it so bad to survive.
According to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment rate grew from 12.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 to 13.3 per cent in the second quarter, while about 1.5 million Nigerians have lost their jobs in the past one year.
“Accordingly, out of a total youth labour force of 38.2 million (representing 48.7 per cent of total labour force of 78.48 million), a total of 15.2 million of them were either unemployed or underemployed in Q1 2016, representing a youth unemployment rate of 42.2 per cent,” the report added.
Lamenting to Saturday PUNCH, the Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Jacobs, said the economy had not been favourable to the manufacturers.
“We are not doing well. Things are very slow. There are no investments in the manufacturing sector,” he said.
Jacobs, who said there had been a face-off between the association and the Central Bank of Nigeria over forex scarcity, disclosed that MAN would be meeting with the apex bank this weekend.
According to the Nigeria Labour Congress, the difficulties being faced by Nigerians clearly shows that the economic policies of the government have not been effective so far.
NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, who called for a review of government’s economic policies, said, “Government needs to rethink and review its policies in order to ensure that the various difficulties are overcome.”
The Kwara State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Olumoh Kolawole, also said the economic policies of the Federal Government were not working, citing high inflation, mass retrenchment of workers by companies, high cost of living and high unemployment rate as reasons.
He said, “The situation is pathetic. In fact, the economic policies are not working. It is high time the Federal Government brought in professionals to help revive the economy.
“Some of those currently on-board are not competent. We need professionals and not bureaucrats.”
But the National President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Chief Bassey Edem, opined that President Buhari’s administration did not even have any economic policies in the first place.
Citing the delay in the passing of the 2016 budget, among other factors, Edem said the economy had been bad because the President had no interest in making it work.
He said, “Before we talk about economic policies not working, are there even policies in the first place? What are this administration’s economic policies? There is none. This is a government that just passed the budget into law. This is October already; they ought to have gone to the National Assembly to start working on next year’s budget.
“The President has said it many times that as far as he is concerned, he only wants to fight corruption and insecurity, and he is doing fine there. He has no plans for the economy
But I think they have seen the consequences now and are now trying to invite some private sector players.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria has only succeeded in pushing the exchange rate to N420 per dollar, while the Minister of Finance (Mrs. Kemi Adeosun) said recently that they were going to inject N350bn into the economy for capital projects. These are not policies. A policy gives a guideline and sets an organisation in a particular direction. That’s not the scenario here.”
A source in another chamber of commerce and industry in the country, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the country’s economic policies had been ineffective and should be reviewed by the Federal Government.
“The trade policy is not exactly what it should be because rather than concentrate on building competitiveness in the economy, there is a lot of emphasis on import restriction and exclusion from foreign exchange market on goods, but it has not been effective,” the source said.
“So, there is a need to review the trade policy, particularly the import duty regime. Then government also needs to relax some of the import restrictions. It is good to put emphasis on locally made goods, but it should be a gradual move, otherwise the shock will be too much on the citizens in terms of the scarcity and costs of products.
Some other economic analysts who spoke to Saturday PUNCH said it was obvious that the economic policies of President Buhari’s administration were not working properly.
“Don’t forget what former President Olusegun Obasanjo said about Buhari not having what it takes to run the economy very well,” a Lagos-based economist, Dr. Babatunde Abrahams, said.
On May 13, 2016, former President Obasanjo had said President Buhari might not do well in economy and foreign affairs, except in military matters.
However, Abrahams said it was high time President Buhari started taking the economy seriously, as he continued to fight corruption and insecurity.
Meanwhile, the economic recession has led to the closure of around 40 per cent of small businesses in the country, according to the President of the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Dr. Femi Egbesola, who described the Federal Government’s economic policies as in need of “a total overhaul.”
Egbesola said even though recently overtook South Africa’s for the second time as Africa’s largest; the policies of the government had yet to impact positively on Nigerians.
He said, “The best way to judge if a policy is working or not is from the pulse of the people on the streets and not from the papers. People can describe your policies as the best in the world on paper, but when it comes to the reality on the ground, are they really making an impact?
“We don’t need a soothsayer to tell us that things are going from bad to worse economically and that is why many businesses are closing up shop. Already, 35 – 40 per cent of companies have closed shop, some of them because they cannot get raw materials to work with.
“The rate at which the government is borrowing from the domestic market is too high and the banks are not encouraged to loan money to business owners when they can invest in treasury bills.
“As of today, there is no blueprint or economic direction of the government. If there is no economic direction, then how do you expect others to key in to achieve your goals?”
Meanwhile, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, an umbrella body for all employers in the private sector of the country, has said more job losses are imminent in the country.
The Director General of the association, Mr. Segun Oshinowo, said since the economy had yet to rebound, it was expected for more people to lose their jobs.
He said, “It should be expected that more job losses will come. For example, we just received a letter from one of the multinational companies in the country, which is a member of NECA. The company’s management said its production capacity had gone down, and as a result of that, it is sacking many of its workers.
“I was also talking to the managing director of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country recently. The man lamented that it had been difficult to get foreign exchange to run the company. He said more workers would soon be sacked.
“Many more companies will follow suit because the economic condition is still bad. They will find ways of cutting cost, and one of the ways is to sack workers, so more job losses are expected.”
However, in order to boost the economy, Oshinowo advised the Federal Government to come up with policies that would create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. He also urged state governments to pay their workers’ salaries. He said the payment of salaries would increase consumer expenditure, which in turn would boost the economic growth rate.
Some civil society groups have also asked the Federal Government to come up with “strong” policies that would reduce the suffering of the people.
The Spokesperson for the International Centre for Peace Charities and Human Development, Mr. Clement Iornongu, said, “Right from the beginning of this administration, it was clear that it had no economic directions.
Also, the founder and Executive Director of Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, faulted the government’s lack of transparency in the energy sector, her organisation’s area of focus.
She said, “This government introduced price modulation policy in the energy sector that is helping it manage subsidies. It has not been paying subsidies like past administrations did, which is good, but there is no information on the amount of money that has been saved so far, to know if we have been making or losing money. That way, we can know how much is available for spending on things like infrastructure, education and so on.”