‘Leadership drive must change to deliver economy from recession’
Dr. Femi Egbesola is the National President of the Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria. In this interview with CHIJIOKE NELSON, he says the real commitment to small businesses and economic developments are yet to be seen.
What were expectations like at beginning of 2016?
As expected, our outlook for the year 2016 was very positive, believing that having a new government in place with a well publicised budget tagged “budget of the people”, their shall be a major turnaround of the economic landscape of the country for good but unfortunately, that is yet to be seen.
What actually went wrong in your assessment? Was it avoidable?
From my own standpoint, I believe the round peg are yet to be in the round hole. We still have a dearth of the right economic team as handlers of our fiscal policies and the economy at large. For a pragmatic performance, we need to not only engage experts, but also bring on board various stakeholders into the fore. I also want to state that our past leaders have failed to effectively and adequately plan enough for the future, which today is hunting us. The father of them all is the monster called corruption. This has in a long way, sent us many years backward in the development of our dear country.
Yes, some of these challenges could have easily been avoided if our leaders had the right foresight, put the overall interest of the country and it’s populace ahead of politics, ethnic, religion, family, greed, mediocrity and corruption.
How would you rate the transparency level of the current administration?
For a fact, this government is more transparent than some of the past governments when it comes to fiscal matters. However, managing an economy is more than ensuring than leakages are reduced. What the average or common man on the street, which of course, is the majority, wants is to have the right economic climate that can not only put food on their table today, but also ensure that they get same tomorrow without much ado. With the rate of inflation, rise in unemployment, insecurity, collapse of vital infrastructure, higher cost of petroleum products, among others, your guess is as good as mine. Yes, the average man will tell you that the economy has not been managed well enough.
In order of priorities, what in your opinion needs immediate attention?
In the immediate, government needs to pay more attention and act to ensure that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) thrive and endures. They need to do all in their capacity to support and grow the SME sector. If this sector is vibrant and supported, the naira will have less stress, because it will help us to be less dependent on imported goods, create more employment, generate more income for government in the form of payment of taxes and other levies and attract more interests from the youths in entrepreneurship.
But these can only be achieved if key infrastructures such as power, road, access to finance, right and consistent policies (one of such being government patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products), multiple taxation challenge, are fixed.
What is your outlook for 2017?
My outlook in 2017 is to see a more proactive, listening and performing government. Gone are the days when slow and steady wins the race. These days, fast and consistent is far better. I look forward to seeing a government that will not only prepare and get budgets approved, but also one that will ensure that such budgets have 100% successful implementation rate. I wish to see a government that will bring more technocrats, stakeholders, economic experts into the project of fixing our economy. I look forward to seeing a government that will put the interest and survival of our country and the populace far ahead any other agenda.