Nigeria has an estimated population of 170 million people. It is endowed with solid minerals; oil and gas and sizeable educated and skill workforce. In spite of these, Nigeria has not been able to harness its blessing to progress the economy sufficiently to improve the welfare of its people. As the population is fast growing, so are the ideas of how to grow the economy.
After two decades of military rule, the economy was in murky state inflation, interest rate and the naira exchange rate were unsustainable and the employment rate was astonishing. The education system was not getting better with dilapidated infrastructures and many children who are supposed to be in school roam the streets of the country. The power sector also did not fair better has 2000 megawatts of electricity was for the estimated population. With all these, the public sector was crippled and still suffers from ineptitude and corruption.
Since the inception of civil rule, the Nigeria government has come with series of economic policies to revive the ailing economy. Some of the reforms are: National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), Vision 20: 2020 and the present Transformation Agenda. In time past we had; the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Privatization programme, Indigenization policy etc. However, the NEEDS policy will be focused on.
To tackle the peddling of poverty in the nation, the President Olusegun Obasanjo led administration birthed a policy to alleviate the malady lurking around the economy. This brought about NEEDS. This policy was to develop the nation. The national development involves the action of human resources on the natural resources to produce goods necessary to satisfy the economic needs of the community. NEEDS, a federal strategy was complemented by equivalent approaches at the state level and the local government.
NEEDS was different from other economic policies that was in place before its launching in many positive ways. It seeks to facilitate the achievement of national goals like: generation of employment, creation of wealth, reduction of poverty and re-orientation of values. NEEDS sets ambitious macro-economic targets for Nigeria. Real Gross Domestic Product grew 8.6% in 2003; in 2004, it was expected to grow 5%, 6% for both 2005 and 2006 and 7% in 2007. From 2003 – 2007, 5% annual reductions were expected and a total of three million new jobs was projected for. With the goals settled out, specific reforms programme was expected to pursue the NEEDS programme. They were public sector reform, privatization and liberalization, transparency, governance and anti-corruption service delivery by government agencies . The most publicized NEEDS reform was the public reform because of the large size of the civil service. The strategy was to restructure, trim and retain civil service as the main engine of service delivery by government. It also aims to eliminate waste and efficiency and free up resources for investment in infrastructure and social services by government.
The policy document issued the commitment of the federal government to programmes of collaboration with and strengthening of the private sector. Therefore, NEEDS aims more local resource, particularly in the area of small medium enterprises (SMEs). It calls for less import.
Through NEEDS, the government recognized the importance of empowering people to design and manage their own development activities. The strategy for the production and strengthening of poor rural people includes: access to credit and land; participation in decision-making; access to agriculture extension services; access to improved seeds and planting materials; farm inputs and tool; and traditional thrift, savings and insurance scheme. The consolidation of commercial banks, coupled with the promotion of microfinance created a strong financial sector. At least, some of the banks have branches across the country.
The NEEDS policy was as good in terms of definition and frame work. However, it faced a lot of challenges. These challenges were the straw that broke the camel’s back. In any organization or country, human resource plays a vital role in determining its success or failure. Nigeria poor economy is a reflection of poor human development and management because education, which cannot be neglected due to its indispensable devoir in human development, has been in disarray for years. It is not possible for education to carry out its function in a miserable manner. A system that snuggle dilapidated buildings with insufficient equipment. This problem has led to the churning out of half-baked graduates. These graduates latter be at the helms of affairs with little or no understanding to carry out the necessary task. Unfortunately, the rigmarole depreciates the economy.
Another challenge is leadership. Leadership is the capacity of someone to lead a group, organization etc . It also means responsibility- having passion for the purpose and the mission of the organization or society one leads. Since independence, leadership in Nigeria appears to be deteriorating. Many reform programs had been undertaken before this, but the society lacks political leadership committed to implement them. Though the Nigerian leaders seems good in prescribing solutions to economic problem but are worse for not providing the institutional framework to make it grow.
Additionally, macroeconomic challenge paralyzed the NEEDS policy. Policy inconsistency and greed are among the causes of the ‘hemorrhage’ in the economy. In Nigeria, every administration that is in power comes up with a new policy initiative instead of building the previous one. For instance, late Yar’Adua administration dumped the NEEDS policy and birthed the Vision 20:2020 and the seven-point agenda.Currently, the Transformation agenda is the one guiding the ‘progress’ of the country. One problem of the Nigeria leaders is their inability to understand that real reform requires systematic policy initiatives and that well thought-out and coordinated policy actions drive social and economic development. Due to this, the NEEDS policy could not achieve its policy.
In this respect therefore, NEEDS should have faced the task of ensuring total human management. This is largely because development has its root outside the economic sphere. It roots is in education, organization discipline, political independence and national consciousness. To overcome this, NEEDS should have involved other agencies in its economic development and empowerment. In this way, a realistic holistic development could be achieved. NEEDS would have been more realistic if Nigeria could grow its economy through focused, honest and leadership with well defined and coordinated national priorities.
Since continuity in government policies is the bane of Nigeria growth, NEEDS should have been executed seriously that the next government embrace continuation. Nigeria leaders should learn to know that continuity is better than ‘dump and start afresh’. Without good monetary policy and fiscal policy; good governance and transparency, the Nigeria economy will continue to face poverty, crime and unemployment.
Ayorinsola Obisanya, Writer and Blogger at www.discusszone.blogspot.com
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