19th Meeting Of The National Council On Development Planning (NCDP)

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REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE OPENING OF THE 19TH MEETING OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL ON DEVELOPMENT PLANNING (NCDP) ON THE 26TH OF MARCH, 2021

 

PROTOCOLS

 

I am delighted to join you at this 19th Meeting of the National Council on Development Planning (NCDP).

 

Its timing is particularly appropriate as we are at the cusp of articulating and adopting a long-term national vision and a new medium-term development plan to succeed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

 

I thank the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed as well as the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba,  and good people of FCT for the hospitality and support, extended toward the successful hosting of this meeting.

 

I also commend the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning and all the Commissioners for Budget and Economic Planning and Commissioners of Finance who are here today, for having surmounted all odds posed by Covid-19 to participate in this crucial meeting.

 

The theme of this year’s Conference, “National Development Planning in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges” is quite apt and timely. It is timely because it affords us the opportunity to exchange views on our successor national vision and medium-term plan as they are being finalized.  The theme is also apt because it sets the scene for discussions on key issues of national planning such as finding the right balance of state-market relations; promoting economic diversification; managing distributional outcomes; addressing the challenge of implementation; promoting better coordination between and within the various tiers of government and securing the resources needed to achieve our developmental aspirations.

 

It is common knowledge that there was an era in which we abandoned national planning in the belief that the market mechanism was sufficient and adequate to bring about desired economic development. It became evident especially after our experience of structural adjustment programmes that such an approach was not very helpful for attaining sustained growth and development.

 

The example of emerging economies that have been more successful in the recent past showed that the State had played a key role in providing vision, mobilising resources, mitigating risk and providing macroeconomic stability while encouraging the private sector to play a leading role in economic activity. This is a balance that we have to find, not just for reasons of efficient delivery but also in order to mobilise the resources required to underpin national development.

 

It is generally agreed that the primary purpose of planning in our economy is to accelerate growth and development outcomes that will improve the lives of our people. To be meaningful, our planning processes must lead to tangible outcomes in the form of growth that exceeds population growth.  Real growth in the sense of growth which creates jobs and opportunities. For instance, GDP growth prior to COVID-19 was around 2.2%, which is less than 2.6% growth in population. More importantly, growth must create jobs and opportunities and circumstances for the well-being of the people.

 

Other priorities for planning include the structural transformation of the economy from low value-adding activities to high value-adding activities, increased job opportunities for our huge youth population.

 

Also important is the provision of high-quality health and educational facilities and a peaceful and secure environment that would support economic activity.

 

Indeed, our plans must bring about an economy and society that works for all Nigerians. An aspect of national planning that is often overlooked is how to manage distributional outcomes in a rapidly changing economic environment.

 

This point is readily understood if we recall, that the strength of feeling on issues like the national minimum wage or indeed, the deregulation of PMS prices is related to their expected impact on the poorer segments of society. As economic change takes place, there are likely to be winners and losers – take for instance the loss of jobs caused by the replacement of bank tellers with ATMs. These kinds of changes in the marketplace give rise to the loss of jobs and our planning must take into account some of what leads to these sorts of changes and loss of opportunities and perhaps the creation of other opportunities.

 

It is accordingly important when drawing up national plans to take account of the interests of the more vulnerable members of society especially as according to NBS, 40.1% of our population live below the poverty line.  This is why social investment and social protection are at the heart of the Buhari Administration’s policy interventions.

 

Indeed, top of mind for Mr. President’s is how to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in this decade as we radically re-engineer the productive base of our economy in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and the digital and creative sectors.

 

Implementation remains the Achilles heel of our planning efforts. Sometimes the implementation failures are due to resource and capacity constraints, but we must also ponder on the possibility that our plans might in some cases, not realistic and not grounded in our objective reality.  In other words, is the lack of implementation due to the fact that our visions and plans have been unduly fanciful?

 

Plans, of course, should be uplifting and ambitious but they should make provision for overcoming resource and capacity constraints. Consideration should be given in this regard to scaling up the capacities for planning at Federal and State levels through training and professionalization of the planning cadres.

 

Another make or break issue for planning is coordination.  There is the well-known challenge of inter-temporal coordination in which for example, infrastructure has to be built simultaneously to enable productive and profitable investments to be made.  The classic example in this regard is the link between the building of steel factories and the construction of railway lines to evacuate the heavy produce.

 

There is also the challenge of coordination between various levels of government in a Federation such as Nigeria, where the intentions of the Federal and State Governments would need to be aligned to maximize impact and prevent duplication and waste. It is also essential for us to pay close attention to structures and mechanisms for promoting coordination within levels of Government.

 

Another matter of interest in national planning is how to make our plans flexible enough to accommodate changing domestic and international conditions.  This is particularly important because there are major changes taking place all around us such as breakneck speed that sometimes, we really must wonder how we are going to cope with some of these changes. Mass migration, for example, health pandemics such as the one we are currently experiencing, the fourth industrial revolution, and climate change and all its various implications.

 

In our regional context, there is the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area; if this point was not clear before our experience of COVID-19, it has become abundantly so. We must plan in such a way as to be able to respond speedily to unforeseen shocks from within and outside the domestic economy. Our evolving vision and plans must accordingly be drawn up to enable us as a nation to respond to changing conditions.

 

Our national plans must also address the very important issues of resource mobilization.    There is no way we are going to be able to realise our aspirations without raising the resources needed for investment in production and infrastructure as well as for the provision of social services and social protection. Domestic resource mobilization, especially through improved tax administration and the blocking of revenue leakages, must now be at the front and centre of our fiscal concerns.

 

But perhaps more important is realizing that government simply cannot muster all the resources the economy requires. The biggest player will always be in the private sector. Planning must focus on creating the right circumstances for local and foreign investment and participation in the economy.

 

So, improving Internally Generated Revenue while not stifling business especially small businesses, is a balance that must be at the heart of policy development, planning and regulation. This would mean for example solving the nuisance of multiple taxes and sometimes multiple enforcement agencies reported by businesses in many States of the Federation including the FCT.

 

The consensus reached by governors under the auspices NEC to reduce and limit the right of way charges for the laying of broadband infrastructure is an excellent example of how States can prioritize development, and eventually, make more money and mobilize more resources if we keep our focus on the big picture.

 

Permit me to summarize seven critical points:

*Our national plans must be inclusive and promote high growth and economic diversification;

 

*They must promote coordination between the various tiers of government as well as coordination between Ministries, Departments and Agencies at all levels;

 

*Our plans should also be modern and ambitious and yet realistic and flexible enough to absorb shocks and adapt to swiftly changing domestic and international conditions;

 

*In the same vein, our plans must accelerate domestic resource mobilization and build capacities for plan implementation and must create the best possible environment for the private sector to invest and operate;

 

*At the core of thinking in our planning, must be the aggressive incremental eradication of poverty and the creation of wealth and good-paying jobs;

 

*Our planning must be capable of meeting the aspirations of and opportunities for a huge and growing youth population.

 

Finally, I thank the Organizing Committee consisting of the Officials of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the FCT and other key stakeholders for the very hard work of organizing this important conference through the years.

 

The outcomes and recommendations would be of immense importance to the ongoing Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTDNP 2021-2025) and Agenda 2050. I also look forward to the formal presentation of the Report of this Meeting to the National Economic Council (NEC).

 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my singular honour and pleasure to formally declare open, the 19th Session of the National Council on Development Planning (NCDP).

 

Thank you for your kind attention.