By Nuel Suji, Abuja.
The Vice President-elect, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo, on Wednesday said Nigeria’s economy is in its worst state in history.
He put the nation’s local and international debt profile at US$60billion with a 2015 debt serving bill of N953.6billion, representing 21 per cent of the 2015 budget.
Osinbajo gave these statistics in his remarks at the opening of a 2-day Policy Dialogue on the Implementation of the Agenda for Change, which began in Abuja on Wednesday.
He noted that an estimated 110 million, out of the nation’s over 170 million population, live in extreme poverty while the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of the population.
According to him, the nation’s dwindling oil revenues has made it difficult for two thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states to pay salaries.
He said, “We are concerned that our economy is currently in, perhaps, its worst moment in history. Local and international debts stand at US$ 60 billion.
“Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 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.”
This, he explained, is against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest percentage of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small group within our population.
Osinbajo said the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress offers a vision of shared prosperity and soci0-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 lunch a robust public conversation on policy directions and priorities that will help inform the incoming administration’s approach in the next four years.
He further explained 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 sessions during the dialogue would explore a wide range of policy priorities including the diversification of the economy in the wake of dwindling oil revenues.
In order to achieve this, he said, the administration intends to engender job-led growth through the revitalisation of agriculture in pursuit of job creation and food security, improving the regulatory frameworks in the most strategic sphere of economic activity.
Earlier, a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr. Peter Mandelson, who represented former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, advised the incoming administration, to take advantage of its current level of public support to take hard decisions.
He 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, Mr. Peter Mandelson 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 that it must remain mindful of the timing of such decisions.
Mandelson also advised the administration not to attempt to do everything at once but ensure that things are done with proper planning along with a commitment to delivery.