As president Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his new cabinet of 43 ministers yesterday, economists and analysts immediately stressed the need for urgent measures to address the challenges of the prevailing slow economic growth.
Nigeria, whose Gross Domestic Product (GDP) used to grow at an average of seven percent, has continued to totter with growth hovering around two percent.
The latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria’s GDP slowed to 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the 2.38 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.
But there is no doubt that the president is acutely aware of the urgency of the moment as he has consistently told his new ministers that they could not afford to disappoint Nigerians, asking them to rise up to the challenge of lifting the mass of the people out of poverty through their dedication to duty and high performance.
To demonstrate his resolve in this direction, he unveiled a new mechanism, known as the Minister’s Mandate, to track and monitor the performances of the 43 newly sworn-in ministers.
Speaking on the immediate tasks of the new ministers, Akpan Ekpo, the immediate past director general, West Africa Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), advised the ministers to hit the ground running.
“The president won an election in February and the ministers are being sworn in today (yesterday), so they should hit the ground running. They should all tackle the issue of the economy. The economy is not in good shape.
“The unemployment rate keeps rising and insecurity is a big problem and with that you can’t attract any foreign investor. So, they have to hit the ground running. There should be a lot of inter-ministerial coordination. What we have now in the economy is that the Central Bank is doing a lot. The government needs to move very fast and put in place appropriate fiscal policies to address this challenges. To me, it is very urgent that it is like they have started yesterday,” he said.
On his part, Bismarck Rewane, the managing director, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, said: “If four weeks from today, I am still feeling the same level of poverty or hardship, then I will begin to scream.”
When asked if four weeks was not too early to expect results from the ministers, Rewane said: “How many weeks do we have in a year? 52! So, are we going to wait till next year before we begin to see results? No. So, in four weeks we want to start seeing some outcomes.
“The animal that would get lost, on the first day that you blow your whistle for it to follow you, it would run in another direction. So, in four weeks we would know whether we are going anywhere.
“So, they have to perform. We would assess after the first four weeks and thereafter the first eight weeks. I don’t want to pre-empt them by giving them any agenda, but in four weeks we would see if anything has changed.”
Analysts at CSL Stockbrokers Limited said that from an economic development point of view, they do not expect a fundamental change in strategy and policy framework of the government in addressing the critical challenges facing the country.
“In our opinion, the ministerial list shows a continuation of a historical pattern of offering leadership positions of key parastatals as compensations for political support without giving much consideration to competence. With Nigeria at a critical juncture of economic and national development, the country is in dire need of technocrats who have the capacity and willingness to put the country on a path of growth.
“We do not believe these appointments will allay concerns on the ability of this administration to steer Nigeria back on the path of sustainable growth and national development. Consequently, we do not expect that this will be the much-awaited catalyst to stimulate renewed interest in Nigeria from an investment viewpoint,” they added.