Obiageli Ezekwesili is the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN). Ezekwesili unveils her plans to fix the decayed healthcare system, struggling MSMEs and bad roads. She also has a strong position on restructuring. Read on.
We all know that an unhealthy populace is a poor populace. Therefore, no anti-poverty agenda can stand without a solid health strategy. The key plank of our health agenda is to reverse the negative trend of maternal and infant mortality, child mortality, needless deaths in non-communicable diseases and medical tourism which has President Muhammadu Buhari as grand patron.
We would champion engagement with international pharmaceutical companies on cost-effective vaccines and medicines that will effectively tackle disease burdens especially malaria and other tropical diseases that hit us disproportionately. Our government will broaden the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to ensure universal coverage in a decade. Every Nigerian has to be in the system, starting with those currently earning an income. We would also attract at least three top quality global health providers linked to the NHIS in each subregion.
At the level of primary health care, we intend to provide incentives that would make primary healthcare a market- based system. We would adopt a PPP model that would outsource the management of these primary health centres to private providers, where the payment to these providers would be linked to performance.
We will target subsidies to the poor in our rural communities such that only a tiny social fee needs to be paid while the federal and state governments shoulder the cost.
Improving economic productivity
Under the @ACPNHOPE government, we would run a results-based health system. We will pursue a Produce More, Earn More vision that will result in higher productivity, greater competitiveness, higher income, more diversified export earnings from wider sources of economic growth in the economy. While Nigeria’s productivity stands at less than $3/hour, countries like Brazil, Russia and Turkey have productivities at $10.7/hour, $24/hour and $28.9/hour respectively.
Under our Produce More, Earn More initiative, our government will partner with the private sector to identify critical measures necessary to increase Nigeria’s productivity to at least $10/hour over the next four years. By introducing a range of policy measures, cutting a wide variety of bureaucratic and regulatory bottlenecks in all sectors, providing the right mix of critical infrastructure and relevant training, skills and capacities for the business sector, we shall unleash higher labour productivity and consequently improve the income growth for individuals, households, businesses and government. Through the Productivity and Competitiveness initiative, we shall seek to achieve sectoral economic structural transformation. What this means is that we will identify the industries that are of strategic value to our economy and support & promote them through sound policies on trade, tax, infrastructure, skills, training, and research and development. This is how it is done in every major economy of the world, and that is how we would do it to ensure inclusive growth.
We expect productivity boosts and expansion in new opportunities that create jobs from some key sectors like agriculture, fisheries, livestock and agribusiness where more than two-thirds of Nigeria’s active labour population is found….light manufacturing industries, construction, housing and public works, renewable solutions, services including trade, telecom and technology, domestic tourism, and creative industries. A majority of those operating in the economy are in the informal, low productivity sectors. People like the barber in Bori, the cobbler in Dutse, the petty trader in Onitsha or the tea seller in Kano.
At the end of each day, by the time their business costs are removed, they make – maybe – N200 or N250. How do we ensure that that figure is jacked to at least N1000 daily for a start? The @ACPNHOPE government would take away the barriers to the productivity of our citizens in the informal sector.
Embracing the informal sector—the MSMEs
We are committed to providing the critical infrastructure, training, access to finance, connectivity to the market and to use policies and targeted public investments to ease the Doing Business environment for both the formal and informal sector firms. We would also provide the incentives that would move them from informality to formality, and enhance their productivity and competitiveness. MSMEs play a key role in our economy. Right now, based on NBS data, they account for almost half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employ over 80 percent of the labour force. If they are doing poorly, then our economy and our people will do poorly.
Yet, the government punishes them and makes everything so difficult for them. The government has turned these honest, hardworking citizens into suffer-heads. You must have heard that when the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business rankings last month, Nigeria dropped in rank to 146th out of 190 countries. My administration will do better for our MSMEs.
Within our first 100 days in office, we will launch a Suffer-Head Challenge. We will choose one of our priority sectors every few weeks and publicly publish every single rule and regulation in that sector. We would then throw it open to the general public to tell us the things that are not working, the enemies of their progress, the things that are too complicated, and the things that must go. And then after all the feedback has been received from business people, stakeholders, and the general public, my cabinet will have three months to go through them.
If a minister wants to keep any regulation, he must defend it and explain why it is useful to keep it. If there is no defence or if the defence is weak, then such a regulation must go. It’s as simple as that.
Most SMEs are operating without business plans; most are unaware of available tools that can make them more productive. Many are swamped with paperwork and most are so uncompetitive that they cannot export. The contribution of MSMEs to Nigeria’s exports is less than 10 percent. Our @ACPNHOPE government will launch BizLift, which would be an online portal & national telephone helpline that would offer guidance and advisory services to SMEs employing between 10 and 199 people. We will also support MSMEs to improve their access to markets. A crucial way we intend to do that is through massive road construction and rehabilitation. We intend to increase the paved road network from 65,000km to 120,000km.
I want to run an honest government, so I would be the first to tell you that the government budget will not be sufficient to meet our infrastructural demands from roads to rails to power to schools. That is why our emphasis on partnership with the private sector is so crucial.
For instance, on the issue of increasing our road network to ease access to markets for MSMEs, we intend to work with states, businesses, communities & stakeholders to agree on new financing models, how they would be paid for and the accountability that goes with non-performance. If the @ACPNHOPE government introduces tolling on roads or any other initiative that has potential to raise rates on citizens, we would use biometrics and e-ticketing to target customers who made payments for those services, and if we fail to fulfil our own end of the bargain, refunds will be made.
Economic growth strategy
We will pursue a Six Growth Poles strategy, which will be at the heart of our diversification agenda. We will focus on optimising the economic performance and expanding the economies of the six geopolitical regions. The federal government will work with the regions and the private sector to produce and implement robust regional economic strategies that will foster sustainable growth.
In the North East, we will invest in the reconstruction and the reclamation of the Chad Basin for economic expansion. We will also restore communities and livelihoods.
In the North Central, we will restore law and order while optimising agriculture productivity.
In the South South, we will implement a regeneration agenda for land, communities and people for a Niger Delta beyond oil.
In the South East, we will undertake reconstruction for innovation, enterprise and trade development.
In the South West, we will place emphasis on optimising and positioning the region as a magnet for global talents with the aim of becoming a hub for manufacturing and services.
In the North West, we shall reignite the competitiveness of value added leather and textile clustering by attracting light manufacturing industries to the comparative advantages of sources of raw materials for production.
Across board, we would pursue an economy of agglomeration, whereby similar economic activities are clustered together to ensure that businesses and cities can scale and have good connectivity.
Our focus on regional development is strategic. The conversation for political restructuring has to begin with fiscal restructuring. We would actively lead the national conversation on restructuring & devolution of powers which must be had if we are to make progress. Over-centralisation only favours the most powerful. Our governance philosophy will be one that favours the many, not just a powerful clique.
We cannot abide this excessively powerful centre that overwhelms and reduces the regions with paternalistic ties to Abuja evident in the frequency of begging bowls and bail-out funds to states. The excessive powers of the federal government are partially responsible for the stunted growth and poverty of the states and regions. We shall lead an economic-based dialogue for correcting the structural imbalance that has hobbled the regions and states and created the failure of our fiscal federalism in practice.
Edited by Odinaka Anudu
Tags: Oby Ezekwesili