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Decades of pragmatic public-private dialogue

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By Timothy Akintola

The Nigerian Economic Summit playing a vital role in Nigeria’s economic reform.

On February 18, 1993, the Nigerian Economic Summit was established with a poignant objective to lay down a footprint for sustainable economic growth and promote private investment to the required level for funding economic development by over 5 percent every year. Chief Earnest Shonekan, a former head of the government and served as the chairman of the steering committee of the summit, noted that the real development in excess of 5 percent was an achievable and necessary measure to ensure an improved living standard and quality of living for all Nigerians.

Nigeria’s political transition to democracy was at this period, navigating huge uncertainties due to the action of the President Ibrahim Babangida’s military administration, where he twice postponed the handover ceremony. More relevant was the impact of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) on the economy, which was introduced to enhance the economic capacity in the country, as well as promoting the private sector for achieving a long-term economic development. In spite of the economic liberalization, however, the country witnessed a significant economic decline.

NES led to the Economic Action Agenda to transform the country’s economy.

The country’s economy, by 1993 was being recked by a growing inflation, a significant debt burden, dependence on foreign imports, unemployment and a huge decline in the output of agriculture. This year also witnessed a significant neglect of the Human Resources development, with the institution failing to keep up with the global competition and technological requirements. Also, Nigeria’s infrastructure failed to meet the demands of the growing population and observers noted that the country was on the brink of an economic dilapidation. The conveners of the Nigerian Economic Summit, such as Earnest Shonekan, Pascal Dozie and Ahmed Joda, upon observing the impending economic dilapidation, convinced the military government about discussing the problems ravaging the country’s economy.

Some of the major recommendations procured during the summit were actively removing the government from economic activities with more potentials to be managed by the private sector, eliminating micro-economic distortions via the reduction of budget deficits, the elimination of all extra budgetary expenditure, enhancing the convertibility of naira via appropriate measures, facilitating infrastructural development and putting in place, policies that improve private participation. The summit further brought about an Economic Action Agenda aimed at transforming the country’s economy.

Summit’s success led to the incorporation of NESG a private sector body.

The success of the subsequent two summit heralded the incorporation of the Nigerian Economic Summit as a non-partisan private sector body, fully committed to facilitating the reforms of Nigeria’s economy into a globally competitive and sustainable open economy. Now, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group is invested in serving through policy commissions and practices that cut across the segments of the country’s economy. The group have extended their works across the executive arms of the federal government to that of state governments and legislators via the Nigeria Governors Forum, National Assembly Business Roundtable and State Assemblies Business Roundtable respectively. The group further established the Policy Innovation Centre and Earnest Shonekan Centre for Legislative Reforms and Economic Development. Recently, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) organized presidential dialogues with the leading presidential candidates in the impending election.

It is however important to recognize that the annual Nigerian Economic Summit is the main programme that NESG organizes with the federal government. The platform has been very important in analyzing public policies via the public-private dialogue model. The group has been significantly important in the facilitation of the Repel of Exchange Control Act, promulgation of the Nigerian Promotion Investment Decree and promulgation of Foreign Exchange Monitoring. The group have also championed pension reforms, privatization of some public enterprises and enhancing business environment reforms.

Group will hold on to attaining pragmatic public-private sector dialogue.

However, one major achievement that this summit would hold on to is the pragmatic dialogue between the private and public sectors, by creating a channel for delivering noticeable feedbacks on the country’s economic status quo. Thirty years after, the national economic summit has been pivotal in proffering solutions to existing economic situations, giving necessary recommendations to reshape the economic direction when implemented, as well as broadening the conversations about Nigeria’s economy.

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