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#NES28 to provide policy insight for next government, forge economic growth – CEO

Mr ‘Laoye Jaiyeola is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). In this interview, he speaks about what the summit is set…

Mr ‘Laoye Jaiyeola is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). In this interview, he speaks about what the summit is set to achieve as it begins today.

This year’s summit is the 28th Nigerian Economic Summit. Going down memory lane, how has the journey been? 

The journey has been challenging yet rewarding. To have successfully created and sustained a credible platform for constant dialogue and engagement between the public and private sector leaders across all levels and organs of government since 1993, when the Annual Summit was initiated, is commendable.

We will be more than delighted to see the government implement some, if not all, of the recommendations from the Nigerian Economic Summit. We also applaud the foresight and efforts of the founding fathers who laid the foundation that we are building on.

This year’s theme is ‘2023 & Beyond: Priorities for Shared Prosperity’. What informed this and what outcomes are you anticipating?

The theme for this year’s summit is based on the urgent need to address the critical challenges of non-inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic instability, infrastructure deficit, human capital deficit and skills gap, national insecurity, and weak economic competitiveness.

There is no doubt that the impact of two recessions within the last couple of years, the Russian-Ukraine war, heightened insecurity, and a sense of lack of fairness and equity on the part of some citizens have necessitated the need for us to seize the opportunity of the forthcoming elections to set a political and economic agenda that can sufficiently address the current challenges bedeviling the country.

NES#28 is designed to galvanise stakeholders towards a consensus on the national and subnational imperatives for economic security, social justice, conscientious governance, political stability and environmental sustainability in 2023 and beyond.

In the previous editions, several decisions were reached. How would you assess the impact of the previous outcomes on policies and actual governance?

The summit has consistently recorded notable impacts from previous editions. The needle has been moved in many areas, which may not be out there in the open. At the inception of NES, Nigeria was a pariah nation and market-based economy was non-existent. We reckon that achieving sustainable impact takes time, and the NESG, in the spirit of working in the national interest, will continue to commit to collaborating with key stakeholders to deliver the Nigerian economy that we all desire.

Briefly talk on the entirety of the summit for this year; the sub-themes, panel sessions, key personalities and more?

This year’s summit is designed around four sub-themes: Delivering Macroeconomic Stability for Shared Prosperity, Investing in Our Future, Unlocking the Binding Constraints to Execution, and Reframing the Agenda for Transformational Leadership.

The summit sessions were spread across these four sub-themes in different formats: plenaries, industry meetings, interactive panels, design workshops, and roundtables. We are expecting the President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, to declare the summit open, while His Excellency, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, will close the summit on Day 2.

We also look forward to welcoming all other members of the Federal Executive Council, state governors, donor partners and key private sector players across all sectors of the economy.

This year is a transition. Are you not worried that the outcome of this year’s summit might end up not being implemented if a different political party wins? Any safeguard measures to ensure continuity?

The agenda for this year’s summit is framed on five pillars, three of which are centred around leadership and execution. The summit sessions are also designed to develop pragmatic solutions that can be implemented in the short, medium and long term. Clearly, we have taken into account the criticality of creating frameworks for sustainable implementation of the summit’s outcomes.

The NESG particularly believes in the power of maintaining ongoing dialogues on these issues, and we will continue to play our role as dialogue partner, intervener, watchdog and connector for impact regardless of any changes in power.

This is our 28th summit which indicates that we have managed many transitions including dealing with military administrations. We are also engaging with leading political parties which are not only attending the summit but also in dialogue with us.

We hope at this summit to come up with issues that all stakeholders can commit to, regardless of their political parties, creed or tribe. These commitments will be placed before the leadership of all the political parties for adoption and implementation by whoever emerges at all levels of government.

Beyond your summit recommendations, how would you advise the next government to deal with the myriad of economic challenges to put Nigeria’s economy on a sustained growth path?

Given the legitimacy of the NESG, the annual summits have consistently served as agenda-setting platforms. As we did with the National Economic Dialogue, we will continue to provide evidence-based recommendations to guide governments at the federal and subnational levels. The evidence is crucial because it clearly indicates where the challenges are and how they may be resolved.

We have policy commissions that serve as working platforms in between summits. The membership of these commissions is drawn from public, private, academic, and civil societies. The platform provides the opportunity to discuss and drive the implementation of the conclusions reached at the summit.

What’s the way out of our naira crisis and inflation?

To address the naira crisis and inflation, firstly, the government must first ramp up the supply of foreign exchange. This transcends the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and requires fiscal policy interventions to drive improvement across the sectors of Nigeria’s economy.

To drive the inflows of foreign exchange, we need to produce what Nigerians consume and use forex to buy.

Secondly, the government needs to ensure appropriate pricing by harmonising the various FX markets. More than the fundamentals of import-export forex flows, the volatility in the value of the naira has been motivated by the gap in pricing resulting from FX market multiplicity. The pricing gap is driving hoarding and a speculative surge in demand for forex.

In recent years, the premium due to this gap has widened and will require heavy CBN interventions to redirect the price appropriately. The implication is a drag on national credibility/weak credit rating and foreign reserves dwindle, especially when oil production remains weak.

Thirdly, we need to take a look at our import bills and see how we can be efficient at ensuring local production for example; when our refineries work well, critically make our agricultural sector more productive rather than merely throwing money at the problem and rejuvenate our schools and hospitals. The demand for foreign exchange will reduce and supply will increase (because our products will be good enough for export).

Needless to add that we as a nation must stop the leakages and corruption that pervade our systems.

Moreover, the government needs to implement a capital mobility policy that clarifies the modality for the inward and outward flows of capital for investors. The lack of clarity has motivated investors’ apathy in the Nigerian economy, lowering foreign patronage in our capital market and FDI inflows.

Gender Inclusiveness would also be critical at the summit. Without preempting the outcomes, what are your personal thoughts on gender inclusiveness? 

Gender inclusiveness means finding a balance among the sexes: male, female, and those in between. While we recognise some improvement in terms of women in education, politics and executive positions, we need to continue advocacy to further shrink the prevalent gap. Beyond the equity concerns, other civil, human rights and legal issues need to be addressed to give women a level playing ground to significantly contribute to economic progress.

Data shows that women are relatively more efficient in using resources, and they represent 50% of Nigeria’s population; getting them empowered and productive means improving economic growth for Nigeria. The advocacy is largely for the male and female gender.

How do we accelerate the actualisation of the SDGs?

Actualising the SDGs requires a collaborative approach that focuses more on synergies among the goals, rather than trade-offs. The implementation strategies must complement one another for optimal impact.

It is also important that we constantly evaluate where we are as a country to ensure that implementation strategies consistently align with our context.

Any other useful information can be shared?

The Policy Innovation Centre (PIC) of the NESG will be holding a Gender and Inclusion Summit on Day 3, that is, on the 16th of November 2022. This is the first national dialogue on gender and inclusion in the country, and we are proud of this accomplishment.

The United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, will deliver the keynote address at the summit.

We look forward to having insightful conversations and developing actionable plans to guide policymakers and programme implementers across different sectors in Nigeria to achieve gender inclusion and accelerate the actualisation of the SDGs.