Is Vision 2020 Dead on Arrival?

The other day, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in what many see as an apparent response to the “admixture of criticism and cynicism” that has trailed the adoption of the Nigeria Vision 20:2020 (NV 20:2020) since the inception of his administration in 2007, enumerated the “strategic goals” of the vision during the inauguration of the Vision 2020 Business Support Group in Abuja. The vision, it will be recalled, seeks to place the country among the top 20 global economies by 2020, a timeframe that seems like eternity to the promoters but is actually some 11 years from today.

According to the President, these strategic goals “are very appropriate when one considers key parameters for ranking global economies” and are, in his words, attainable by the country! He went further to reel out a long list of targets, which range from the bizarre to the outright ludicrous, he envisions to achieve for the country using the Vision. (Pun intended) which include a sound, stable and globally competitive economy with a GDP of not less than $900 bn, representing a 300 per cent increase as well as a per capita income of $4,000, from the prevailing $1,128; availability of adequate infrastructural services; reduction of infectious diseases to the barest minimum; a modern technologically-driven agricultural sector; and a vibrant and globally competitive manufacturing sector that contributes significantly to the GDP with a manufacturing value added of not less than 40 percent. The realization of these targets will, in the belief of the President, result in Nigerians enjoying a 70-year life expectancy rate, from the present 46.5 years rate, according to the 2007/2008 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report!

The President expressed strong and uncommon optimism that the lofty goals of the vision are realizable given the “current and improving fundamentals of the Nigerian economy.” Sadly, it looks like only the President sees these “improving fundamentals”, whatever that means. But a little curious dimension was added when he further disclosed that public resources would not be enough to drive the vision and reportedly called on the private sector to rise to the occasion and support the initiative. In his words, “The support of the private sector in the funding process is considered critical to the attainment of these goals.”

This obviously is where the challenge lies. How does a private sector that is encumbered with a large load of government-inflicted constraints support the “funding process” of an initiative at a time it is seeking for all manner of bailouts from the same government? Or, how does a private sector that is subsisting in a harsh operating, and barely profitable, economic environment like ours, accentuated by government’s inability to do just the basic things right, be relied upon to drive the vision?

Consequently, many Nigerians are unwilling to share the optimism of the president on the eventual realization of the goals of Vision 2020, which the inimitable writer and poet, Olatunji Dare, recently called “vacuous slogans and alibis for doing nothing”. Recently, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State was reported to have dismissed Vision 2020 as “another project that is not realizable” due to what he described as “our unserious approach to it.” As the governor enthused while delivering a lecture at the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), “Vision 2020 will remain a vision until it is followed with definite action.”

It is instructive that beyond outlining what constitutes the “strategic goals” of Vision 2020, the government of President Yar’Adua has not endeavoured to articulate any discernible roadmap and action plan for the attainment of these goals. Obviously, it is this lack of identifiable roadmap and logical framework to drive this vision that informed its dismissal by not a few individuals as mere wishful thinking. Renowned legal scholar and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof Itse Sagay, for instance, reportedly referred to it as “FG’s craziest concept and the most ridiculous type of aspiration”.

Besides, what rankles many about Vision 2020 is that there is evidently nothing on ground to show how the government intends to achieve its goals. I had argued in a recent article that even when the country was not contending with the added negative effects of the global economic crisis, the lofty objectives of Vision 2020 were too unrealistic. As a pointer, between 2006 and 2008 when oil prices persistently nudged up from about $70 a barrel to peak at $147, the country’s Gross Domestic Product grew between 5.6 per cent and 6.6 per cent, how realistic then is the assumption of a GDP growth rate of 8.9 per cent, more so at a time when the prices of crude oil for a mono- cultural economy like Nigeria’s, is at an all- time low?

I had premised my argument on a recent estimation by an international finance firm that at a price of $43 per barrel, Nigeria may only be able to muster a GDP growth rate of 4.4 per cent. What this means is that if the official projection that what is needed to attain the core goals of Vision 2020 is an uninterrupted 12 per cent GDP growth rate for the next eleven years is anything to go by, then it is evidently difficult to imagine how this administration can pull out the Vision 2020 chest nut out of the proverbial fire. And to compound matters, the country has not even been able to meet its production quota owing to the escalating crises in the Niger Delta region.

Interestingly, what could have been taken as the blueprint for attaining the Vision 2020 is the 7-Point Agenda, which, unfortunately, suffers from halfhearted implementation. For instance, on assumption of office, the President promised to declare a state of emergency on the power sector given its centrality to economic activities. Sadly, over twenty months in office, nothing to that direction has occurred. Instead, the power situation in the country has since worsened to between 2000 and 3000 megawatts. How then can the goal of a 300 per cent increase in the GDP be achieved when most industrial and economic activities in the country are powered by imported generators, with attendant implications on cost of production to the economy and environment as a whole?

Besides, it is benumbing how a government that cannot spend funds appropriated in its budgets on essential capital projects, which at the last count amounted at about N450 bn in the 2008 budget alone, can achieve such mind boggling “strategic goals” it set for itself. Just how does the President intend to turn a country whose poverty rate is said by the 2009 UN Habitat Report to have shut up from 46 per cent in 1996 to 76 per cent in 2009 with 40 million of its youths, from ages 15 to 25, unemployed, according to a recent World Bank report, to a global economic giant in such a short time frame without any concerted effort? Obviously, it is the “how” of the vision and not the “what”, that is of fundamental interest.

There is a limit to expressing of unrestrained optimism in issues such as national economic management, without requisite action. With the way things are today in the country, it is not difficult to see why many believe that the aspirations underpinned in the Vision 2020 are essentially one huge wild goose chase. It therefore behoves government to realize that unless and until concrete and practical efforts and actions aimed at achieving its economic projections are undertaken, the vision would have long died on arrival. That, indeed, is never a good legacy to bequeath to a nation.

Written by
Joel Nwokeoma
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