Less than three days to the commencement of the 2015 Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), the 21st in the series, Abuja the Federal Capital Territory is set to host the biggest economic stakeholders’ forum of the year.
Organised jointly by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), representing the private sector and the National Planning Commission (NPC), representing the public sector, the summit scheduled to take place from October 13 to 15, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, is themed “Tough Choices: Achieving Competitiveness, Inclusive Growth and Sustainability”.
This year’s summit is particularly significant for two reasons- first because the country has witnessed for the first time, a change in administration characterized by a party other than the traditional ruling party occupying the central seat of government and second, because of the current dynamics on the economic scene that require urgent attention.
It is, therefore expected to be a departure from sector- specific considerations that the group focused on in the past three editions.
According to the organizers of the summit, the choice of theme is predicated on the fact that “despite the recent 2014 rebasing exercise in which Nigeria emerged as Africa’s foremost economic power with an estimated GDP of US$536 billion (which has surpassed the economy of South Africa; and accounts for almost 50% of the GDP of West Africa), our growth in the last decade has remained non-inclusive.”
The summit which was initiated in 1993 by the Chief Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government, has remained the foremost platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors to discuss issues and challenges facing the development of the country, with a view to developing and harmonizing common strategies for addressing them.
It aims at fostering open and continuous dialogues on Nigeria’s economic development.
NES in action
The major objective of the summit is to create enabling environment that is conducive for good governance, responsive private sector investment and sustainable economic growth and development of the Nigerian economy.
In that regard, the summit brings together chief executives/top level operators from the private sector and very senior government officials to discuss how best to develop the Nigerian economy and monitor the implementation of government policies, programmes and projects.
The summit focuses on developing the short to medium term policy direction for the country that is in line with national interest taking cognizance of the evolving global economy.
The recommendations made by the NES usually become part of government policy upon presentation of same to the Federal Executive Council by the Minister for National Planning.
The summit process is therefore one of the significant drivers for the evolution of many of the reform initiatives that the government has largely accepted and have been gradually implementing over the years.
It has provided an entrenched platform for dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors and, indeed, among the various stakeholders in the development of the Nigerian economy.
However, the fact that this year’s summit is coming when the country is yet to have an economic team raises questions as to who really represents the government in the dialogue? Again, when the economic team is eventually constituted, is it going to accept seeming unilateral recommendations for implementation?
Expectations this year
The summit is expected to facilitate stakeholders’ discussions/agreements about how best to achieve competitiveness and inclusive growth in a sustainable way, through measurable outcomes as well as to push for permanent structural changes that would allow inclusive growth.
Key outcomes will include specific recommendations on how to: create jobs; dismantle the pillars of corruption; establish and build upon pillars of sustainable growth and development as well as align home-grown long-term development agenda with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, that will take effect from January 2016.
In order to achieve these outcomes, the 21st summit is structured to include a Presidential Policy Dialogue and other sessions will focus on leveraging Nigeria’s competitive advantage, business and sustainability, regulators forum, legislatures forum, policy commission breakout sessions (to deal with industry specifics), design workshops as well a conversation with the state governors.
For the Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, “the summit may create the much needed opportunity for the new government to have a serious interaction with the private sector.” This, he says, may lead to government unfolding its policy direction which has kept investors waiting for long.
“I wish we already have ministers; it would have made the interaction a lot more robust,” he however added.
Wale Abbey, Secretary General of Financial Market Dealers Association (FMDA), said his expectation is the same as the objective of the summit.
“I want a summit that will bring about consistency in policies towards economic development. I want competitiveness in the Nigerian economy to give room for foreign investment,” he said.
He also expects the summit to ‘create a more conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive.
Speaking with journalists last month in Abuja, NPC Secretary, Mr. Bassey Akpanyung, said preparations for the summit had reached advanced stage with high level representation from the public sector, captains of industry, representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and development partners expected.
He said as part of efforts to make the summit focused and result-oriented, a presidential policy dialogue on tracking corruption, insecurity and institutionalising accountability would be led by President Muhammadu Buhari, who will declare the summit open.
Akpanyung said the theme of this year’s summit was apt and timely as well as consistent with the aspirations of the present administration’s change agenda and medium term successor strategic plan, 2016-2020. The plan focuses on fighting corruption, addressing unemployment, insecurity, institutional reforms, economic growth and development.
He said the summit would also provide ample opportunity to debate some of government’s recent policy directions including the contentious directive on the Treasury Single Account (TSA) among others, in order to figure out the benefits and consequences of such policies.
On his part, the Director General of NESG, Mr. Laoye Jaiyeola, said the current administration was determined to hold people accountable and ensure that business activities in both public and private sectors are carried out effectively and transparently in line with global best practice.
This, according to him, had necessitated the institutional reforms in various sectors including the implementation of the TSA, adoption of a zero-based budgeting option with effect from 2016 as well as the restructuring of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and blocking of financial leakages in federal MDAs.
He expressed satisfaction that previous outcomes and recommendations from the summit have been implemented by government.