By Peter Jene
President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in Abuja appreciated the outstanding support and guidance provided by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) which he described as a “tutorial,” urging the members to do more to help the country exit her very terrible state of development.
Speaking 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).”
The PEAC, while making a presentation to President Buhari, 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; 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), as well as the adjustment of the exchange rate of the Naira.
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 Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and adopted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), but warned that in the implementation of the N2.3 trillion 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; attention be paid to sources of funding to avoid inflation; 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;” ensure the use of local resources; curtail post-harvest losses in agriculture now put at between 40-60 per cent and above all, 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 included the need to embark on mass housing schemes to create jobs financed through a Public Private Partnership arrangement; 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.
President Buhari 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 as he gave further assurances that “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.