Olaopa outlines path to national economic transformation at NECA summit

The Chairman, the Federal Civil Service Commission ( FCSC), Prof. Tunji Olaopa, on Tuesday outlined steps that could be taken for national economic transformation.

The Professor of Public Administration and retired federal permanent secretary spoke at the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA)’s 3rd Annual Nigeria Employers’ Summit held in Abuja.

Olaopa expressed the hope that amid Nigeria’s “rising from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the deep crisis state of the economy as at 2023, the series of domestic and external shocks that warranted removal of subsidy and the floating of the Naira might be translating slowly to democratic dividends, but surely, it will in time, with more concerted efforts and deepened policy creativity”.

But he noted that the growing confidence in the resilience of the economy, and the fiscal gains from subsidy removal need to be accompanied by prioritising the real cum productive sectors for stimulus injection, so the real sector can drive sustainable growth and macroeconomic stability.

To achieve desired results, according to him, will require “the deepening of out-of-the-box policy intelligence, as we are currently witnessing across multiple fronts, through the implementation of a range of reforms to create the ecosystems that are enabling for private sector to thrive as we grow the economy”.

Consequently, Olaopa said that concerted actions should be taken to expand alternative sources of financing, to fix infrastructure gaps, while at once strengthening the regulatory oversight of such bodies like Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Council to hold DISCOs accountable.

“If significantly enhanced investments are achieved in this regard, infrastructure expansion will no doubt impact operational costs for businesses and create the incentives for quantum of FDIs”, he said.

To deepen the current reforms to strengthen institutions and regulations, he said much more should be done to lessen bureaucratic burden on investment and enterprise, through the streamlining of business approval processes; elimination of duplicative licences; acceleration of courts digitisation; improving insolvency reforms to improve contract enforcement; and expanding angel investing and other venture capital funding to transform Nigeria’s technology start-ups into key global players.

Focusing on the education sector, Olaopa said there was the need to do more with curriculum revamp, with emphasis on virtual skills, to improve teaching quality and pedagogy in general.

“SIWES and other industry apprenticeship/on-the-job mentoring partnerships that expose students early to employability and enterprise skills need to be revamped, reprofiled and consolidated”, he said.

“More investment, active promotion and encouragement are still required in the SMEs space. This is the space that harbours the ‘shadow economy’ or the informal sector. Since the bulk of the Nigerian population will continue to depend on the informal firms for their sustenance for a long time to come, our commitment to poverty reduction therefore compels us to do more to help informal firms to become more productive, quite apart from helping them to graduate to the formal sector”, he added.

According to him, more strategic conversation is needed “to inform the rethinking of the relative role of the state and the market (as macro-policy imperative), to deepen their shared responsibilities as engines of growth of the economy. In so doing, we need to better harness the potential of PPP models in infrastructure financing and in reengineering public sector service delivery for quality and institutional capability readiness.

“In this connection, we need to do more to deepen institutional capacity and capability in the public sector for managing commercially-centred partnerships and complex projects, especially at the level of procuring entities, where the contractual structures that govern PPPs are managed. Instituting good corporate governance principles is also essential for government to fully benefit from the partnerships.”

Giving insight into the role of the FCSC in the national quest for transformation, Olaopa assured stakeholders: “From the Federal Civil Service Commission, we are determined to strengthen gatekeeping for the public administration profession through more robust strategy for promoting and protecting meritocracy, even in the context of federal character diversity management, all with a view to restoring competency-based human resource management practices as a gateway to re-professionalise the civil service, going forward.”

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