By Roberts Orya
The link between good policies and realization of their targeted outcomes is disciplined execution. This essential policy success factor has not always been very evident on the Nigerian policy landscape. As such, disciplined execution was something we appreciated because of what difference we thought it would have made, as opposed to the power of its presence, and as the strong link between good policies and the realization of their targeted outcomes.
In recent years however, we have begun to see a momentous change that is influencing a new learning paradigm. Our understanding of what works is no longer predominantly influenced by what didn’t work or what might have been. Nigerian policymakers and policy observers now see the influence of persistent execution of policy strategies in the realization of the outputs of public policies.
The turning point would be when, 15 years ago, Nigeria opted for a democratic system of government. Public expectations on good governance and the accountability requirement of democracy put more demand on a representative government and, more generally, on policymakers. It was for this reason that the successive administrations we have had since 1999 embraced the need to deliver the ‘dividend of democracy’ to Nigerians. In other words, a governance framework that is result-driven and that is validated by positive policy outcomes is what is now afoot in Nigeria, notwithstanding the challenges we face. Indeed, the commitment of government to addressing the challenges is evident; whether we look at the investment commitments that are being made in infrastructural development, efforts to continue to brighten the investment outlook of Nigeria and programmes that target improvement in citizen’s welfare.
These efforts are long-term commitments. However, some of them have begun to produce results that have stayed with us as a country and as a market. For instance, continuous reform of the fiscal space has ensured macroeconomic stability; Nigeria is no longer a jurisdiction that is marked by volatility arising from unsound fiscal management. Industry-specific reforms have in the past 10 years designated a new banking industry that has become significantly bigger, stronger and that is supported by an independent central bank to ensure macro prudential supervision and soundness of the banks. Moreover, assiduous pursuit of price stability has more recently become more appreciable as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) maintains a resolute stance on maintaining stable exchange rate in spite of speculative attack on the local currency and the fact that other emerging economies have yielded to the pressure of currency devaluation.
This ‘new’ Nigeria has not faltered; it is the environment of low, single-digit inflation rate we continue to have due to consistent monetary stance. Happily, we have had no dire need of even orderly wind down of the extant policy .The new CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele has just renewed the commitment to price stability by the Central bank. This stable Nigeria is the market which local and foreign investors are increasingly committed to because of inviolable private ownership of business assets and the avowal of the government on private sector development.
These changes have remained with us because of sustained execution of the requisite policies. In a lot of the situations, implementation of the policies has met strong structural obstacles and systemic resistance, especially in the power sector. Therefore, the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan very well deserves all the plaudits it continues to get for the progress that Mr. President has made with the implementation of the power sector reform. For a very long time, powerful interests within the power sector — where importers of generators were fingered as the bad guys – allegedly stood in the way of implementation of the power sector reform and improvement in grid-electricity supply in the country. Today however, some of the generator importers have invested in the growing number of Independent Power Projects in the country. Asset owner transition to private companies who had purchased the unbundled power generation and distribution companies has happened despite the fear that the labour union of the old state power monopoly would scuttle it.
Still with President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the recent rebasing of the economy has two significances in commitment to execution of government policy. The first is that the rebasing actually took place. The rebasing was supposed to be done every five years. But a combination of factors had ensured the last rebasing was in 1990. This being the case, it is remarkable that President Goodluck Jonathan provided the political leadership to make the new rebasing a reality.
Roberts Orya is Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export-Import Bank