Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership, Professor Pat Utomi, has urged Nigerians not to be obsessed about whether the nation is still in or out of recession but rather interrogate whether the economy stimulates quality of life, employment, entrepreneurship and eradicates inequalities.
Though he described the deceleration of the pace of negative growth in the last quarter as a welcome development, Utomi called for focus on education, health and infrastructure which would translate into real human development.
In his call for increased stimulation of economic activities by engaging private capital to grow infrastructure, Utomi while speaking with Nigerian Tribune, on Wednesday, called for caution by the federal government in borrowing money just to stimulate the economy.
According to Utomi, Nigeria exiting recession was not a solution to the nation’s problem but rather measured by the number of Nigerians creating value and having entrepreneurial mindset.
He bemoaned the reliance of the country on increase in oil prices, urging the country to explore all her human and natural resources else the nation will continue to go in and out of recession.
“I think that the process of reversal was already on by the last quarter. I tried to encourage people not to be obsessed with these technical measures and words like recession or lack of it. Recession means that the growth rate of the economy is negative quarter on quarter.
“That is a useful measure to realise that there is fire on the mountain. But the real bottom line must be the measure of how to get up the quality of life of the citizens. Recently, the Human Development Index described Nigeria as being among the most miserable place to live on earth. That is what we should focus on as a people.”
“Focus should be more on the social sectors, like education and healthcare, because these are critical to overcoming other things. In addition, we need to continue to stimulate economic activities but we have to be careful about borrowing to spend just to stimulate. We should be a lot more creative about searching and bringing in for private capital to help grow infrastructure.
“At the same time, we need to push very stoutly initiatives that make entrepreneurs out of our young people. And we need to encourage them to create value without the resources ordinarily required to create such value, not when everything is given to you.
“A typical entrepreneur starts with nothing and builds something out of it. These are the critical things that will take the economy out of where it is. Currently, we have a situation where it is few people who have access to power accumulate most of the country’s resources and you have a gap.”
“Interrogating the origins of inequality the Nigerian economy is fundamental to getting things right. By all means, the pace of deceleration of negative growth is welcome, as some of us have observed that in the last quarter, but that is not a solution to our problems.
“This is because the grave danger of being excited about whether we are out of recession or not is that we forget that unemployment is out of this world in Nigeria. We forget that truly are not exploring our resources enough. We are waiting for oil prices to come up, so if they come up, we relax and go back to our bad ways and tomorrow we are back to where we started.
“When we use certain kinds of measure and inequalities are so vast, you will see inequalities like output go up whereas few people have been employed, and little jobs are being provided. It means that the quality of life of the many unemployed continues to be much poorer but at an aggregate level, there has been more output.
“We are only just getting things moving to an explosion point. Essentially the economy has to be one in which the measure of performance is the number of people who are working and not receiving handouts but creating value. Those human development indicators are more important to me than aggregate output levels,” Utomi said.