Govt Can’t Do Everything, Private Sector Can Do Better, Says Prof Ife

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Ken Ife, an economist and international finance specialist, called for the private sector to play a more active role in driving Nigeria’s economic development, particularly in vital areas like power, telecommunications, health, and human resources, on Wednesday.

He mentioned this during a television interview discussing the country’s economic issues and potential.

“Why are we expecting the government to do what we know the private sector can do better, which is invest in human resources and health care?” Health is driven by the private sector because health means insurance; insurance pays for health in America, and the same is true in the United Kingdom,” he explained.

“However, we are not energising, releasing space for the private sector to come in, and when they do, they must come with investment, and investment is the key to any economic development because it is an investment that increases economic activities, economic activities create jobs, jobs give you disposable income, and disposable income allows you to pay for health, education, and poverty reduction.”

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“That is the cycle, but we believe the government can handle everything.” The government is incapable of doing so; it lacks the necessary resources. The government budget accounts for only 7% of GDP; where is the rest 93%? Its headquarters are in the private sector. As a result, we need to change the conversation.”

He compared Nigeria to two developing countries in the energy sector as an example of how the private sector may assist.

“When it comes to the seat of power, Nigeria has four times the population of South Africa and has ten times the power,” he explained.

He claims that although South Africa generates 58,000 megawatts, Nigeria only has 5,000 megawatts.

When compared to Brazil, he continued, the disparity in fortunes is much more pronounced.

“Take a look at Brazil, which has the same population as Nigeria and has around 258,000 megawatts. “You can see how many hundreds of times higher they are than Nigeria,” he explained.

Professor Ife, an energy policy expert with over 30 years of experience, discussed how the power sector’s fortunes can be turned around.

Despite costly mistakes in the past, he believes the solution is not far-fetched.

“We made some critical errors in the past, but we can bring power to the masses so that you can unleash the private sector’s capacity to generate power for themselves while simultaneously selling excess to the national grid.” But persuading the administration of this is becoming more difficult,” he remarked.

Professor Ife feels the country has gotten policymaking right. However, he noted that policy implementation was not the same.

“Our policies are excellent. When it comes to implementation, it all falls apart. Because part of the implementation challenge is that we have our own priorities while the government has its own.

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“For example, make sure you pay salaries, make sure you pay pensions, make sure you service the loans, and the loans are getting extremely heavy,” the professor explained. “You must invest in security, and recurrent expenditure takes priority.”

He believes that the government must recognise its limitations in order to move forward.

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