IT was an economic ambition that was well celebrated. But months after the Federal Government declared its resolve to place Nigeria among the world’s 20 biggest economies, stakeholders in the nation’s real sector say it may be an elusive dream unless urgent steps are taken.
The project, which is contained in Vision 20:2020 economic plan, they argued might not be achieved because the measures needed to address the forces hindering the growth of the business sector were still lacking.
In separate interview with The Guardian on the vision, the industry players listed the threats to the initiative as high cost of funds and dearth of long-term funds; influx of finished goods from abroad, particularly Asia; weak linkages between small and large enterprises; weak research and development support and dearth of strategic industries such as the steel and the petrochemicals.
Others, according to them, are unstable power supply, poor road network, absence of a master-plan for railway development, rising cost of automotive oil and gas, as well as uncoordinated tax administration.
The operators said Nigerian manufacturers, small-scale businesses and families spend over N3.504.800 trillion yearly on diesel and petrol generating sets yearly due to unstable supply of electricity, which has remained unaddressed by past and even the present government.
The Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, stressed the need for the government to address the gap in infrastructural development, using the country’s untapped human and natural resources.
Other industry leaders argued that for the Vision 20:2020 to be attainable, the manufacturing sector must contribute not less than 25 per cent yearly for a set period against the three per cent, which the sector now contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Yusuf urged the government to declare a state of emergency in the power sector if it is serious about the 20:2020 dream.
“It is expected that the government will urgently take drastic steps to ensure the efficient performance of the power sector, as most manufacturing firms have relocated to other West African nations because of the power sector crisis.
“The government should focus on power and energy, agriculture and food security, wealth and job creation, mass transportation, land reforms, security, qualitative and functional education and of course, the Niger Delta would turn around the nation’s economy and make possible the realisation of the Vision 20:2020 dream.
“With 20:2020 being only eight years away, this is definitely a tall order, especially in the light of where we are at the moment. But a great deal of impact could be made if there is the political will and sincere commitment to make things happen.”
Also, the President, Nigeria Union of Traders, Ken Ukaoha, said the industrial sector had been abandoned by successive governments and the inability of the private sector to brace up to the challenges of globalisation and competitiveness.
The sector, according to him, has therefore remained prostrate and add less value to the economy for over three decades.
Ukaoha said: “Indeed, the industrial sector has been dominated by exploitation of natural resources, specifically crude and natural gas. Unfortunately, while the exploration ought to have actuated maximisation of benefits in the nation’s hydrocarbon resources (petro-chemicals), what we rather have is an industrial sector that generates its own power, and depends on long queues for imported and exorbitant fuel.
“We urge a shift from the “siddon look” attitude of political appointees to a purely technical and project-driven governance where performance is evaluated on the basis of measurable outputs and actual impacts. This is the only way Nigeria can grow and remain in line with the nation’s strategic development plan represented by Vision 20:2020 framework,” he said.