The Vice President-elect, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo, has said the Muhammadu Buhari-led government will inherit the worst economy ever in the history of the nation.
Also, a former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has advised Buhari to take advantage of the country’s current level of public support for him to take hard decisions.
Osinbajo and Blair spoke during the opening of a two-day Policy Dialogue on the Implementation of the Agenda for Change, which began in Abuja on Wednesday.
Osinbajo put the nation’s local and international debt profile at US$60bn with a 2015 debt-serving bill of N953.6bn, representing 21 per cent of this year’s budget.
He noted that an estimated 110 million out of the nation’s over 170 million population, were living in extreme poverty while the largest chunk of the benefits of the nation’s wealth was going into the pockets of a small percentage of the population.
According to him, the nation’s dwindling oil revenues has made it difficult for 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states to pay salaries.
He said, “We are concerned that our economy is currently in perhaps its worst moment in history. Local and international debts stand at US$ 60bn.
“Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6bn, 21 per cent of our budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the states in Nigeria owe salaries.
“Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure.”
Osinbajo said the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress “offers a vision of shared prosperity and socio-economic inclusion for all Nigerians that leaves no one behind in the pursuit of a prosperous and fulfilling life.”
According to him, the goal of the policy dialogue is to interrogate the positions and propositions before a wider audience and to launch a robust public conversation on policy directions and priorities that would help inform the incoming administration’s approach in the next four years.
He added that the “forum exemplifies the sort of consultative and consensual approach to policy-making that the APC and the new administration intend to model in office.”
The Vice President-elect also declared that the dialogue intended to explore a wide range of policy priorities including the diversification of the economy in the wake of dwindling oil revenues.
To achieve this, he said, the administration would engender job-led growth through the revitalization of the agricultural sector in pursuit of job creation and food security, improving the regulatory frameworks in the most strategic sphere of economic activity.
Blair, who was represented by a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Peter Mandelson, explained that with the current state of affairs, the task ahead of the incoming administration was indeed a daunting one.
Drawing from the experiences of the Labour Party in Britain, Blair said the first rule of governance “is be true to your word; be true to your mandate.”
He urged the Buhari-led administration not to be afraid to take hard decisions but said it must remain mindful of the timing of such decisions.
Blair also advised the administration not to attempt to do everything at once but to ensure that things were done with proper planning along with a commitment to deliver.
He said, “You will have more goodwill and moral authority to do the difficult things at the beginning of your term than at the end. President (Joko) Widodo of Indonesia was elected in July last year, with huge public support.
“One of the first things he did when he was inaugurated in October was to smash Indonesia’s hugely expensive and inefficient, yet popular fuel subsidy.
“A policy decision which had toppled a previous administration and consistently brought people out on the streets, he decided to do it straight away when he had the authority that was the time.”
This, Blair explained, cushioned the effect of the recent fall in oil prices in the world market on the Indonesian economy.
He also stressed the importance of communication which, he said, was vital in democracy because “it is both the means of convincing people and getting them to keep following you once you are elected.”
“Strategy without communication is like a car without headlights,” he added.
The British politician also stressed the need for the government to focus on priorities and ensure service delivery.
Blair also advised the administration to create a mechanism that would focus on its priorities even in the midst of other challenges.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Director, Policy Research and Strategy Directorate of the APC, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had said, “The phase of policy conception is over and we are entering the phase of execution, governance and of providing tangible developmental deliverables.
“The challenge of translating ideas into policy and praxis now looms large.
“Given the degree of work that has been put in by the directorate and our well-documented national problems of policy implementation, the focus should now be on evolving an institutional framework to deliver the agenda for change.”