Beyond Exiting Recession

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The recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that the country has exited from economic recession is, indeed, gratifying and heart-warming to all Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.
As cheering as the report may be, it however, poses an enormous challenge to the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government to ensure that the country will never recede again, after a 22-month downturn in the nation’s economic fortunes.
Most importantly, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration needs to plug all loopholes which in the first place, led to the recession and, above all ensure that the exit translates into meaningful improvement in the lives of the citizenry.
The Tide notes that until the ordinary or average Nigerian experiences a change in his/her  living condition, by way of easy access to basic necessities of life-food, shelter, health, education, among others, the real import of the exit will remain a mirage.
We are, however, consoled with President Buhari’s declaration that “the ordinary Nigerians cannot see an end to the recession as long as the prices of food items are still high and unaffordable”.
Buhari who spoke in his country-home, Daura in Katsina State, while receiving the President of Niger, Alhaji Mohammadou Issonefou said he was very happy to hear that Nigeria was finally out of the woods, and commended all the managers of the economy for a job well done.
The President however stated that his administration welcomed the news with cautious optimism and promised to vigorously drive the economic recovery and growth plan to a logical conclusion. Well said, Mr President!
We recall that the media was recently awash with statistics from the  National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the stable growth of the nation’s economy in the last quarter which showed some stability and consistency of economic indicators which the NBS used as benchmark for the exit from recession.
According to the Bureau, the economy grew in Q2 2017 by 0.55 per cent from -0.91 per cent in Q1 2017 and -1.49 per cent in Q2 2016. An analysis of five successive quarters, the NBS revealed, showed that the economy made steady progress which led to the exit.
The Presidency buttressed NBS’ assertion by proclaiming that the nation’s overall economic plan resulted in sustained restoration of oil production levels occasioned by enhanced security and stability in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, growth in agriculture, mining and industry.
This positive growth, the Presidency said is attributable to both the oil and non-oil sectors of the economy as against growth in the oil sector which was negative since Q4 2015 but positive in Q2 2017.
It is against this backdrop that the Federal Government must muster sufficient political will and commitment to ensure that the Niger Delta question is given priority so as to sustain the prevailing peace and stability witnessed in the last two quarters of 2017. It is believed that the parley between Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and leaders and other stakeholders in the region paid off.
Besides addressing the Niger Delta issue, the public and private sectors must ensure that agriculture, mining, manufacturing and increased investment by local and foreign investors should be encouraged; while government must continuously strive to provide the enabling environment.
The Buhari administration needs to quickly address the unemployment rate and unpaid salaries and pensions as well as erratic power challenge. The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises which constitute the driving force of the economy as witnessed among the Asia Tigers should be given a boost.
As a deliberate economic growth plan, the nation’s economic managers should consider a review of interest rates to encourage direct local and foreign investment, while the Debt Management Office (DMO) should ensure that debts are granted only to viable and bankable projects and programmes. This is no time for jamborees and white elephant projects that cannot stand the test of time.
The Tide therefore recommends that President Buhari should inaugurate a crack economic team which will consolidate on the economic growth recorded so far so as to make the country a productive sector rather than the consuming nation it has been over the decades. No better time to act than now.