The N348.7tr National Development Plan
The unveiling of the N348.7 trillion National Development Plan (NDP) for the 2021-2025 period, by the Federal Government has raised mixed reactions among various stakeholders including scholars, the media and some members of the private sector. First there is the euphoria that government is taking macroeconomic planning seriously, given the unexpected two-year delay that prevailed before the 2007-2020 medium-term Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was launched in 2017, for a government that came into power in 2015. On the other hand, there is the negative perception that this is another merry-go-round in economic governance which ultimately may add little to nothing to the good performance of Nigerian economy, apart from keeping government bureaucrats busy and with lots of money to spend in this regard. To them, the unveiling of this plan, like that of others in the past, are more or less ceremonial and largely empty in substance, given that many of these plans hardly achieve the objectives for which they are set. The NDP, as structured, is built around the six concepts of economic growth and development, infrastructure, public administration, human capital development, social development as well as regional development. It is good on paper and if these issues are addressed, the country’s economy will experience positive developments across all sectors.
However, given that the NDP is designed to succeed the ERGP which has largely performed woefully below target in the attainment of its set objectives, concerns exist on its capacity to achieve the set goals. The ERGP in its conception had a conservative posture for the price of crude and this is where it exceeded expectations, given positive developments in the global oil market over the period, which was outside the control of the government. For the key production sectors of agriculture, industry and services, the target growth rates were not attained. The overall GDP growth rate projected at 7% in 2020 was never attained with the actual rate hovering around 2.5% in 2020. Also, the rate of job creation was never attained. Instead, what greeted the period was an intensification of job losses, increased unemployment and massive impoverishment of the Nigerian populace. Overall, the ERGP did not enhance the stability of the macro economy, nor enhanced diversification of the economy. The economy is still largely dependent on oil revenue as much as it was when the plan was conceived and launched. The ERGP also fell short of its second objective of investing in the people with the social investment scheme dogged with numerous corruption allegations and human capacity development challenges. Global competitiveness was not enhanced neither did the country fare any better in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ratings except that the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index recorded some improvements though still lower than the level in 2015.
Against this background, many have become sceptical about the launch of the NDP, given the lack lustre performance of its predecessor, the ERGP. A major issue in the scepticism of the NDP is its conception. The programme appears to be a top-bottom plan with little consultation done with the grassroots and other key stakeholders before its unveiling. This is what happened concerning the ERGP. It can be recalled that during the Obasanjo administration, prior to the launch of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), stakeholders were engaged across the country including various professional groups with inputs harvested to improve the quality of the document. This new programme has not been subjected to such public hearings or among the various regional socio-economic bodies across the six geo-political zones for the proper design and workability of the document. Probably this is still in the pipeline. Otherwise, that would be a serious shortcoming of the NDP. Second, the apportionment of the burden of the NDP financing appears questionable. The conception appears to put greater burden on the private sector which is expected to shoulder about 85% of the financing of the plan relative to the private sector which provides a paltry 14% of the total cost. In fact, for the Federal Government, the fulcrum of the plan is providing a mere 8.5% of the financing, about 10% of the burden to be borne by the private sector. This tells a lot about the likely effectiveness or a lack of it, of the government arrangement for the implementation of the NDP.
Regarding the implementation plan for the NDP, the involvement of Mr. Atedo Peterside from the private sector, as co-chair with Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, as part of a governance plan does not fully take into account the views or concerns of the various stakeholders particularly for the unorganised private sector of the economy. The required inclusiveness in conception and implementation is not really addressed by this arrangement. The plan should be made participatory; else it will go the way of previous plans that have failed to achieve the goals for which they are set. If the appropriate building blocks are not put in place, the 5% GDP growth rate as well as other targets set in the plan may just be a mirage.