President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja challenged members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) to do more to help the country exit “our very terrible state of development.”
The president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement said Buhari gave the challenge during a virtual audience with members of the PEAC.
The president said: “We are a country characterised by a large population of poor people, serious infrastructure deficit, lack of housing and a vulnerable economy now haunted by the COVID-19 pandemic and collapse of the oil sector and its effect on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).’’
Buhari however appreciated the outstanding support and guidance provided by the PEAC which he described as a “tutorial”.
While making a presentation to the president, the PEAC had commended the administration for implementing several of its recommendations, even as it presented the government with “a number of tough choices to make in order to put the country’s economy on a higher growth path’’.
The Chairman of PEAC, Prof. Doyin Salami, who led the presentation, specifically expressed delight with the ongoing review of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the 2020 Budget in view of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 as well as the adjustment of the exchange rate of the Naira.
Salami also lauded the government for the deregulation of the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); approval for the implementation of the Oronsaye Report on the need to rationalise and restructure federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
He, however, noted that more needed to be done to increase efficiency, coordination and accountability on the part of MDAs.
The PEAC welcomed the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) produced by the Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) headed by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and adopted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The economic team, however, warned that in the implementation of the N2.3 trillion ESC spending plan, there could arise a number of problems which, if unattended, could hamper smooth implementation.
The committee advised, among others, that the ESP should be implemented using existing institutional and administrative structures and attention be paid to sources of funding to avoid inflation.
It stated that government must ensure that priorities, targets and time limits be set for all projects to make for their completion within the 12-month life-span of the ESP, and where this is not achieved, such projects should be rolled into the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP II).
The PEAC recommended that the ESP must promote “export-oriented production strategies”, and to ensure the use of local resources; curtail post-harvest losses in agriculture now put at between 40-60 per cent.
The committee stressed the need to make the economy attractive to “non-debt” private sector-funded investment in order to cut the rising cost of debt services.
Other recommendations, according to the presidential aide, included the need to embark on mass housing schemes to create jobs financed through a Public Private Partnership arrangement.
It also stressed the urgent need to move away from “multiple exchange rates to a unified currency exchange rate,’’ and to do all that is necessary to continue to ease the environment of doing business in the country.
Shehu disclosed that the president accepted the immediate need to activate the proposal by the PEAC on the Public Policy Coordinating Office under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Buhari assured members of PEAC that his administration would continue to listen to their useful suggestions and recommendations, saying “we will continue to listen to you and do our best”.
Other members of the PEAC are Dr Mohammed Sagagi – Vice-Chairman; Prof. Chukwuma Soludo; Prof. Ode Ojowu: Dr Shehu Yahaya; Dr Iyabo Masha; Mr Bismarck Rewane and Dr Mohammed Salisu – member/Secretary.