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Asiodu berates government’s economic policies

Posted by By Ntai Bagshaw and Bamidele Osha, Lagos on 2004/08/23 | Views: 272 |

Asiodu berates government’s economic policies


Renowned technocrat Phillip Asiodu is unhappy with the current economic policy being implemented by President Olusegun Obasanjo, a “wishy-washy” approach he sees as a carry over from the pile of programmes devised by previous administrations.

Renowned technocrat Phillip Asiodu is unhappy with the current economic policy being implemented by President Olusegun Obasanjo, a “wishy-washy” approach he sees as a carry over from the pile of programmes devised by previous administrations.

Asiodu once served this government as Economic Adviser and, with that knowledge, argued that past policies were well thought-out and wondered why Abuja failed to build on them.

“What is NEEDS (New Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy)? Just give me the critical targets of NEEDS. Did the document explain how we are going to achieve its targets? The ‘how’ is the important thing. That is the question. How do we do it?” he queried during an interview at his residence in Lagos.

Said he: “We run away with acronyms. How big is this document? How does it compare with volume one and two of, say, the 1975 to 1980 (development) plan, in specification of projects and targeting? How does it compare with the things in the Vision (2010) document?

“You remember in November 1999, we produced Obasanjo’s economic policy to run from 1999 to 2003, putting target percentages that were realisable if pursued wholeheartedly”.

Asiodu, one-time Petroleum and Mineral Resources Secretary in the Interim National Government (ING) headed by Ernest Shonekan, said the Vision 2010 policy formulated during the administration of late Sani Abacha was perhaps the best economic strategy the nation has produced.

“Why did we throw away the Vision 2010 document? We can retrieve it. And I am privy to what the (Theophilus) Danjuma committee produced. If we insist that in every three or four years we will dig new foundations instead of building on what exists, we’ll never reach the promise land. And this has been the problem of Nigeria”.

He advised that a constituency for economic reforms be created to ensure continuity of policy. “For once, Nigeria should stay focused and not in one or two years after implementing a policy and no result is forthcoming, we throw it away”.

On the debate over whether or not to disburse the $330 million excess oil revenue, Asiodu, who also served as Permanent Secretary during the Yakubu Gowon administration, warned that the money should not be shared but kept for future use.

His words: “As far as I am concerned, we have had an unprecedented period of so-called high oil prices – four years. Before now it crashed within 16 months. And so we can’t expect it forever. But for the American misadventure and high-handedness in Iraq, oil prices wouldn’t be what they are today. I personally believe that the excess oil receipts should be saved. But not saved as in the past when it was just saved and people didn’t know.

“This windfall should be attributed to all the federating units. They should know that they are keeping it but that so much belongs to this state or local government so that tomorrow no one takes its share and gives to another person.

“Also, I would say let us use $22 per barrel price as budget benchmark. Anything above that, we save and know that Delta State, for instance, has this proportion; Kano has this and so on. When things are bad and we need it, they will know that this is what we have. That is my opinion.

“With the resources Nigeria possesses, if we were focused for 25 years, we will be, at least, a $15,000 per capita economy. Our disaster has been instability… changes of government and changes of policy; signals of instability, both to the local investor and the foreign investor. And we have not stopped this trend. And if we don’t stop it, we will remain poor”.

•Asiodu spoke on other economic issues. See full interview on Wednesday.

Rendering an account of the country’s politico-economic history, Asiodu recalled that Nigeria recorded significant economic progress under the colonial five-year development plan bequeathed to it at Independence but that it was distorted by the Murtala Mohammed regime which jettisoned the Value Added Intermediate and Capital Goods Industries Plan and embarked on a massive purge of the civil service.

“If you go back and look at the colonial plan pushed by labour ideology, we had two five-year colonial plans, which culminated in independence in 1960. It took us two years to produce it in 1962, and it was supposed to be a five-year plan but because of the civil war, it became 1962-1968 and we didn’t produce another plan until 1970.

“But if you look at 1970-1974 plan, it had identified where we should concentrate efforts … agriculture, agro-allied industry and manufacturing industry. Oil had not become so important. By the 1975-1980 plan, oil had become important in terms of giving us investable resources. But in that plan, we said it was a wasting asset, we must convert it to renewable sources of wealth. And in that plan, we talked about Value Added Industry. Cassava was in the 1970-1974 plan.

“We were making good progress, and even when the civil war came, which was very sad, and has distorted the subsequent economic history of Nigeria, the economy was growing at 8 per cent per annum. And even with the civil war, outside the civil war zone, we sustained that growth rate … and when it ended, and it came to rehabilitation, reconstruction and all that, we resumed the growth rate … 15 per cent per annum in manufacturing industry, having started from nowhere and 10 per cent overall, until the coup of 1975”.

Asiodu laid the blame of the country’s present economic quagmire on the military which was in the habit of leaving the reins of power in a “precipitate” manner.

“Power was handed back in 1979. Shagari’s first administration stumbled on, did one or two things, but the unfortunate thing is that when the Army are going, they go in such a precipitate manner that they don’t give you enough time to create real political parties without which you cannot have a functioning democracy. We don’t have parties today. And without parties you cannot have democracy”

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.