The Executive Director, GoGreen Africa Initiative, Mr Adeniyi Bunmi, at the weekend, blamed inconsistent government policies for the nation’s weak economic development.
Bunmi made this known in an interview in Abuja, while reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s call on the CBN to restrict foreign exchange allocation on importation of food items into the country.
He said that contrary the thinking of many Nigerians, “nothing stifles a nation’s economic development as much as lack of coherent policy”.
“The total lack of understandable, consistent, logical and coherent government economic policy is the main reason behind our under-development as a nation and not necessarily corruption.
“Even if you totally eliminate corruption, you still need to invest the proceeds for it to make any difference in people’s lives,” he said.
According to him, the decision of the President instructing the CBN to stop selling foreign exchange to food importers “is not a right thing to do now”.
“Many people applauded the move thinking it was forward-thinking but is the CBN independent of the government?
“When you have in independent central bank, it is supposed to make decisions without political interference.
“The whole idea is that politicians should not play politics with the economy but should leave economic management to the technocrats.”
Bunmi agreed that Nigeria needed to cut food imports but the way to do it was to improve domestic distribution, refrigeration and storage of farm produce.
“Building silos in all our 774 local government areas, providing refrigerated trucks and tarring rural roads is what will make food more abundant and cheaper.”
According to him, a blanket import ban is only going to lead to higher prices and inflation which will affect demand and supply fundamentally.
“When you ban imports and do not produce what you have banned locally, you create inflation.
“As in the case of rice for instance, we only produce about four million tonnes but consume about seven million tonnes.
“To make rice imports unattractive, the government needs to not only boost production but also increase the unit-per-head output.
“If Thailand is producing rice at 20 dollars a tonne and selling it at 30 dollars a tonne, why should Nigerian consumers be forced to purchase from local producers at 50 dollars a tonne?
“As an economy, we need to learn to be competitive, one problem with government tariffs is that it protects lazy, inefficiency and uncompetitive local monopolies, providing them with no incentive to up their game.”
Bunmi appealed to the incoming minister of agriculture work our how to improve the distribution network and track products imported with a view to making Nigeria self-sufficient in its production.