WHEN the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by the United Nations in 2000, many countries were sure they would achieve them. Sadly, not everything in the MDGs has been achieved by many countries, including Nigeria. The goal of the MDG was to usher in the robust expansion of the economies of developing countries. Besides, no fragile economy could have achieved all of the goals of the MDG by the end of this year.
However, an enduring progress was made with millions of people lifted out of poverty, maternal mortality and unemployment. Thus, as the world signed up recently to MDG successor: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigeria should sustain her development goals with considerable confidence. The challenge, however, is to make this ritual of goal setting as effective as possible through learning the lessons of the past 15 years of MDGs. The MDG experience puts improved system of delivery and implementation at the heart of the change we are clamouring for. Which is why the toughest thing about governance is getting things done. Getting goals executed has always been the problem of governance in Nigeria.
Throughout history, necessary reforms are often radical, unpopular and technological complex. Our ministers must confront outmoded ways of working endless hours of protocol. The sign of poor governance is a happy protocol office. Another bane of bad government is the absence of sound advice on finance, infrastructure and attracting foreign investment.
Therefore, a concerted effort to strengthen government capacity and efficiency would be an excellent complement to Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG comprises 17 goals and 169 targets, all of which are admirable in their own right. However, to execute any of these targets, our ministers must prioritize them and focus on the rhythm of change that works best for us. Simply, having a well thought out plan isn’t enough. Our ministers must muster ways to turn plans to targets and ensure those targets are met at all costs.
This operational focus is often absent; as any football fan can appreciate: the ball will not hit the back of the net unless the team works to give it to the striker. Indeed, the key to growth is to attract foreign investment to stimulate economic expansion, creating jobs therefrom which will in turn increase tax revenues. This requires new partnerships and collaboration across borders. It involves sharing experiences, forming alliances and accepting that practicality transcends ideology. Creative problem solving will be very important. But the global marketplace already offers an abundance of new ideas to tap from. A remarkable feature of the 15 years of MDG has been the role that private philanthropy has played in complementing efforts by governments. Just like the Ford and Rockefeller foundations of yore, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has come to the rescue of the economically depressed nations of the world.
This should encourage us to find the right way for cooperation between government and philanthropy, in order to bring about transformation rather than palliative change. The lessons from economic history enhanced by the experiences of the Czech Republic, India and Bangladesh show we can defeat poverty.
Indeed, history shows that healthy and sustainable societies are built on peace, security and respect for the rule of law and human rights. Observance of each of those pillars is crucial to the economic prosperity of any nation state. While human rights and the rule of law are regarded as luxuries, they indeed go to promote peace and security in a country.
However, if we want to expand and grow, we would need to revisit our Fiscal Responsibility Act to remove the cap of three per cent of deficit to GDP to enable us accommodate deficits without limits as in developed societies. Another area of immediate action by the Buhari administration is subsidy cancellation. The present subsidy regime amounts to subsidizing the rich.
November 20 is African Industrialisation Day as declared by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). It is a day we must raise awareness about the necessity for Africa to produce what it consumes. On that day, governments and financial institutions in Africa must examine ways to stimulate our industrialisation process. It is also an occasion to draw attention to the challenges to industrialisation in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.
On November 20 this year, we expect from President Muhammadu Buhari, a pledge to reopen all closed internally abandoned factories in Nigeria. From then on, Buhari should show us by example, the patronisation of home made goods by his wearing locally made fabrics and accessories.