Friday, August 21, 2009

Vision 2020: Let’s walk the talk

The plan by the Federal Government to release fresh rules on Vision 2020 appears worthy and commendable.
This, in real terms, means that government’s desire to make Nigeria one of the 20 frontline economies in the world 11 years from now would not be a vacuous dream.

Minister of National Planning, Dr Shamsudeen Usman, who announced government’s plan for fresh rules for Vision 2020 at a recent breakfast meeting with media chief executives in Abuja, said part of the new plan would be to work with the National Assembly to set up what he called a “binding legislation on Vision 2020.”
This suggests perhaps that hitherto, government had not taken the national legislature into confidence in the policy framework that will fast-track the economic development plans of the country.

Only recently, Dr Usman admitted publicly that government doesn’t have a realistic blueprint yet on Vision 2020. He said that this could come out not earlier than October this year. And in his meeting with the media chiefs, the minister maintained that previous development plans failed because of the absence of a clear-cut implementation framework.

While accusing former President Olusegun Obasanjo of being the brain behind the failure of Vision 2010, the precursor of the current Vision 20-2020, Dr Usman noted that the way forward will be thorough implementation strategies that will reflect in annual budgets, and their enforcement through proper legislation that would be binding on successive governments in the country.

We share the concerns of the government as expressed through the Minister of National Planning. The truth, however, is that this government appears not genuinely convinced of its own programme of action for realizing this vision. Nigeria is neither lacking in intellectual ideas, nor the roadmap on any policy measure that can propel economic development of our country. What is annoyingly lacking is the political will.

In just under six months this year, the Federal Government has inaugurated over six different committees on Vision 2020. These include the Business Support Group which is tasked with articulating and developing a long term strategic plan, the National Council on Nigerian Economy, and the National Steering Committee on Vision 2020.

Only recently, government set up a 25-member Macroeconomic Framework Working Committee to review the draft macroeconomic groundwork of the economic as well as Nigeria’s historic performance and identify the constraints to growth.

Clearly, and indisputably, visioning is not new with our governments. Indeed, it has become a sort of mantra for successive administrations in Nigeria. But few, if any at all of the plans, have gone beyond the drawing board. The damper on these economic blueprints is that they are stymied by lack of political will and commitment.

It is heartwarming, however, that government is planning to retool the rules and design a comprehensive legislation that will be binding on successive governments. This is the case in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia and Singapore where visioning is known to have succeeded.
Realistic vision must say something that clarifies the direction in which the government wants to take the country and its people. This can only be achieved through concrete action plan. So far, there is a contradiction between government plans and the strategies that can propel such plans.

For instance, no economic visioning will succeed in the absence of steady power supply and adequate infrastructure such as good road network, healthcare system and security, among others.
All in all, words alone are not enough to move a vision forward. Action, real action, is the answer. Now is the time to walk the talk on Vision 2020.