Nigeria’s Economic Ambitions

It is time to plan for a highly diversified post-oil economy

When the Muhammadu Buhari Administration comes to power later this month, it will be confronted with a perfect storm of economic conditions. The price of oil is currently just over half of where it was in June 2014.Foreign exchange reserves are falling. The excess crude account has dwindled to the point of being nearly empty. The government debt portfolio, especially the domestic component, is on the rise. It will be a mistake to attribute all these problems to the out-going administration alone. Nigeria’s current economic problems have accumulated over a long period and the change of administration offers an opportunity to reflect and act on Nigeria’s economic ambitions. The current dismal economic trends can be traced to many sources, but one reason stands out above others: Nigeria’s continued high dependence on oil. Although the rebasing of the economy in 2014 has revealed significant growth in the gross domestic product, estimated at US$510 billion, the government still depends on oil for about 65 per cent of its revenue (the 2015 federal government budget is based on the assumption that oil will account for 53 per cent of government revenue) and over 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings. The boom in oil prices from 2000-2008 had one insidious effect on economic policy-making, the expectation that Nigeria could power its way to economic greatness through projected trends in oil and gas production and growth in population size. That expectation was particularly fuelled by Goldman Sachs reports which predicted that Nigeria would be among the top 20 economies by 2020 and which included Nigeria in the so-called NEXT 11 countries after the BRICs: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, the Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam. More recently, Nigeria was included in a sub-set of the NEXT 11 called MINT, which stands for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Continue reading Nigeria’s Economic Ambitions