Sale of national assets no solution to economic recession – Bassey James

The calls for sale of national assets from the
Senate President, ex-governor of the Central
bank of Nigeria and other economists have
sparked controversy in the country.
While some people said the Federal
Government can sell Nigeria Liquefied Natural
Gas (NLNG), the refineries and other assets, in
order to inject more money into the economy,
others stressed that sale of the nation’s assets
is not the solution to worsening economic
recession facing Nigeria. The managing
director and chief executive officer, Bascon
Nigeria Limited, Mr. Bassey James a popular
entrepreneur and National President, Southern
Youth Development Forum, advises President
Muhammadu Buhari on ways to manage
economic recession.
Government is considering concessioning of
some airports in the country, sale of NLNG
and other national assets. Can sale of
national assets get Nigeria out of the current
economic recession?
When it comes to sale of nation assets, I
will advise the government to tread with
caution. I disagree with the sale of national
assets because these assets are very
important to the country. These assets we
have as a country must be cherished. There
are other measures we can use to boost the
economy. The assets we sold in the past,
what did we use the money for? NLNG is
among the biggest assets we have and it is
very viable because it has to do with gas.
When there is economic recession, prices of
goods collapse, so how much are we going
to realise from such sale that will turn the
economy around? I do not want a situation
where the sale will go to few people without
favouring the entire country and young
entrepreneurs.
With the present economic crisis,
government has to increase income flow by
injecting more money into the economy.
Don’t you think asset like the national
theatre can be sold off?
There are other measures we can use to
revamp the economy aside from selling
national assets. We must look for other
areas where we have competitive advantage
like investment in agriculture,
entrepreneurship, manufacturing and
industrial production as measures we can
use to rejuvenate the economy, instead of
selling our national assets.
The President has said that the economy
will bounce back, let us support him through
investments in non-oil export sectors. We
should look at export activities to earn
foreign exchange, rather than depending on
importation of almost all the goods we
consume locally.
Now many financial experts are saying that
the CBN should reduce interest rate and
inject liquidity into the financial system,
while others warned that additional liquidity
may further weaken the local currency. What
is your take on this?
In tackling recession, it is important to
ensure policy consistency in the system. So,
the monetary authority must take
cognisance of rising rate of inflation, which
is about 16.5percent. It is only when we
have policy consistency that we can restore
the confidence of investors in our economy.
Monetary policy instruments can be used as
short term measures to boost economic
growth. However, there must be effective
coordination of monetary and fiscal policies
to ensure stability in the system. This is
paramount because monetary policies alone
cannot guarantee sustainable growth.
For example, the economy is experiencing
high inflation and low productivity, so the
commercial banks should be willing to lend
to manufacturers and entrepreneurs to boost
economic activities across the country.
Lending to entrepreneurs will add value to
the economy and create jobs for the
citizens, rather than giving out money for
importation of goods that can be
manufactured locally.
There must be clear monetary policies in
place to crash high interest from banks and
to ensure easy access to credit facility.
Right now, many banks are not giving loans
to entrepreneurs as well as operators of
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The
few banks willing to lend to entrepreneurs
give very stringent conditions for obtaining
loans, which is not helping the economy.
So, the right thing is for banks to lend to
entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
At this point, we should also talk about
capacity building to address the challenge
of capacity deficit in the system. Capacity
building can enhance entrepreneurial
development as a way of resuscitating the
economy. The interesting thing is that
Buhari made a good choice in appointing
the managing director of NDDC, because the
current managing director understands a lot
about youth development and
entrepreneurship.
Some people are also calling on the
President to reduce his cabinet as a way of
managing recession. Do you agree with this?
The cabinet is not the problem. Let us come
together and brainstorm on how to revive
our economy through an economic
conference. This is the time for us to come
together to talk about the situation we are
in and ways we can get out of the
recession. We can do this through a
national economic forum where experts can
deliberate on how to diversify the economy
into agriculture and manufacturing to boost
export. That is why we are putting together
what is called the ‘National Youth Impact
Conference’, which will soon take place.
What is the significance of this conference
and what do you want to achieve at the end?
With the present economic situation, it is
imperative for youths from all ethnic groups
in the country to unit, support economic
growth and sustainable development. The
conference will enable entrepreneurs across
the country to have a common platform to
discuss ways we can support the President
to move the economy forward. It will also
provide a good platform for youths and
young entrepreneurs to discuss how our
energy can be channelled into economic
activities, rather than destruction of public
goods and national assets in our economic
environment. The youths who are the
leaders of tomorrow have a crucial role to
play in nation’s building and national
development. We must also realise that
national unity is paramount to economic
growth and development.
Nigeria is the only country we can call our
own, therefore, the youths must rise to
support the President in his efforts to make
positive changes in the country. National
unity will promote economic growth,
sustainable development and stability in
various sectors. The conference will be held
in strategic places like Kaduna to cover the
north,
Abuja for entrepreneurs within the federal
capital territory, Lagos to cover the South
West and Enugu to cover the East. It will be
a tool for national unity among our young
entrepreneurs from different parts of the
country. The youths must realise that
carrying arms will not do us any good as a
nation. We should promote national
development irrespective of our ethnic
background, religious organisation and
political affiliation.
Our refineries are not working, don’t you
think government can sell such plants to
generate revenue and invest in other
sectors?
We can allow private investors to manage
and turn around the plants. This will reduce
the pressure on getting forex for
importation of petroleum products. Going
forward, there must be a development plan
in place to allow policy consistency for
sustainable growth. We can follow the
example of Malaysia, China and other
advanced countries in promoting
manufacturing as well as industrialisation
to curtail excessive importation of goods
into the country.

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