Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday blamed the country’s present economic situation on former President Goodluck Jonathan who she said was bereft of political will to save oil revenue in preparation for the rainy day throughout the period he was in power between 2011 and 2015.
The two-time minister who spoke yesterday at the George Washington University, Washington D.C. on the topic, “Inequality, Growth and Resilience”, said the administration of Jonathan was light years apart in terms of savings, from that of Obasanjo who saved the $22 billion that aided in reducing the effect of the global economic meltdown that came into the country at the end of the last ten years.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who served as the nation’s Finance Minister between 2003-2015 under the administrations of Obasanjo and Jonathan cited Chile as an example of a country with a saving culture was quoted by The Cable to have said:
“We tried it in Nigeria, we put in an oil price-based fiscal rule in 2004 and it worked very well. We saved $22bn because the political will to do it was there. And when the 2008/2009 crisis came, we were able to draw on those savings precisely to issue about five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product as fiscal stimulus to the economy, and we never had to come to the bank or the fund.”
“This time round, and this is the key now, you need not only to have the instrument but you also need the political will. In my second time as a finance minister, from 2011 to 2015, we had the instrument, we had the means, we had done it before, but zero political will.
“So, we were not able to save when we should have. That is why you find that Nigeria is now in the situation it is in, along with so many other countries.”
Emphasising the need for countries to imbibe saving habit in their period of prosperity she said:
“That is the question that I ask, what do we need to do to these countries to save over a period of long accelerated growth. We need to devise mechanisms not just that are good technically but find a way to either embed them in the constitution or find a way to separate them from the political manipulation so that these countries can survive over time.
“To build resilience, African countries need tools, mechanisms and it is doable and we need to interrogate ourselves why we have not done it.”
Strongly stating that manufacturing was of utmost importance to growth in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala quoted manufacturing at just 11 per cent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product, and nine per cent in Nigeria.
According to her;
“I do not believe that we can be resilient, except if we can encourage manufacturing, even on the goods we consume, services, entertainment industry and agriculture.
“I think these are the kind of questions that policymakers struggle with on a daily basis, and that is what we are going to answer to get resilience.
“If we don’t get these mechanisms, we politicise them, find ways to transform the base of the economy and create jobs, including in manufacturing, I believe we are going to go into this looming deceleration that is being talked about.”