Nigeria has slipped out of recession, but this may not mean anything to majority of citizens who still have to battle high food prices and increasing unemployment.
The Senate is elated by the cheery news from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), but the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is cautious because of the high food prices and unemployment among the citizenry.
The administration welcomed the news of the exit and promised to continue to drive economic growth by vigorously implementing the Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP).
The Special Adviser on Economic Affairs to President Buhari, Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, is also cautious in his comments.
According to him, the NBS figures for the second quarter of this year (Q2 2017) which showed that the economy grew in Q2 2017 by 0.55% from -0.91% in Q1 2017 and -1.49% in Q2 2016, means that the economy has exited recession after five successive quarters of contraction.
He, however, admits that unemployment remains relatively high adding that job creation is expected to improve as businesses and employers increasingly respond more positively to the significantly improving business environment and favorable economic outlook.
He adds that food inflation needs watching as it has remained quite high and volatile due “mostly to high transport costs and seasonal factors such as the planting season.”
His words: “This positive growth is attributable to both the oil and non-oil sectors of the economy. Growth in the oil sector which has been negative since Q4 2015 was positive in Q2 2017. It rose by 1.64% as compared to -15.60 in Q1 2017, an increase of up to 17 percentage points. This improvement is partly due to the fact that oil prices which have improved slightly from the lows of last year have been relatively steady as well as the fact that production levels were being restored.
“The non-oil sector grew by 0.45% in Q2 2017, a second successive quarterly growth after growing 0.72% in Q1 2017. This increase which was not quite as strong as it was in Q2 2016 reflects continuing fragility of economic conditions. However, given that nearly 60% of the non-oil sectors contribution to GDP is influenced by the oil sector, growth in the oil sector will help boost the rest of the economy.
“The positive growth seen in agriculture when the rest of the economy was contracting was maintained at 3.01% which is encouraging especially if seasonal factors are taken into account. Manufacturing growth was also positive at 0.64% and although lower than the previous quarter’s growth of 1.36%, it was an a noticeable improvement over the -3.36% experienced in Q2 2016 and a continuation of the turnaround of the sector. Solid minerals which remain a priority of the Administration also continued to grow and in Q2 2016 by 2.24%.
“Overall, industry as a whole grew by 1.45% in Q2 2017 after nine successive quarters of contraction starting in Q4 2014. This positive development was somewhat overshadowed by the continued decline in the services sector which accounts for 53.7% of GDP. Nevertheless, electricity and gas as well as financial institutions grew by 35.5% and 11.78% respectively in Q2 2017.
“The GDP figures give grounds for cautious optimism especially as inflation has continued to fall from 18.72% in January 2017 to 16.05% in July 2017. Foreign exchange reserves have similarly improved from a low of $24.53 in September 2016 to about $31 billion in August 2017. In the same vein capital importation grew by 95% year-on-year driven by portfolio and other investments but also notably by foreign direct investment which increased by almost 30% over the previous quarter.
“Foreign trade has also contributed to improving economic conditions with exports amounting to N3.1 trillion in Q2 2017 while imports which increased by 13.5% amounted to N2.5 trillion in the same period. The overall trade balance thus remained positive at N0.60 trillion….
“Besides, as key sectoral reforms in both oil and non-oil sectors gain traction, the successful implementation of ERGP initiatives such as N-Power and the social housing scheme will boost job creation.
“Food inflation also bears watching as it has remained quite high and volatile due mostly to high transport costs and seasonal factors such as the planting season. Investments in road and rail infrastructures, increased supply and availability of fertilizers and improvements in the business environment should contribute to the easing of food prices.
“Overall, the end of the recession is welcome but economic growth remains fragile and vulnerable to exogenous shocks or policy slippages. Accordingly, it remains essential to intensify efforts going forward on the implementation of the ERGP to achieve desired outcomes including sustained inclusive growth, further diversification of the economy, creation of jobs and improved business conditions.”
The Senate, on Tuesday, applauded the report by the NBS that showed the economy is bouncing back.
In a statement signed by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, its spokesperson and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, the Senate emphasized that it was truly commendable that after five consecutive quarters of contraction, the Nigerian economy grew by 0.55% in the second quarter of 2017.
Abdullahi also stated that the improved performance of the trade, manufacturing, agriculture and oil sectors, was an indication that with carefully aligned policy and legislative interventions, Nigeria’s economy could thrive beyond current forecasts and expectations.
“The Senate received Q2 NBS economic report with great excitement,” the Senate spokesperson said, “We are delighted that government’s response to the economic recession has began to yield tangible results.
“The public will recall that in the days following the announcement of the 2016 recession, the Senate initiated steps and tabled 21 recommendations that it submitted to the executive for immediate action. We also listed out economic priority Bills, many of which have now been passed, or at the final stage.
“We are also happy to note that many of the economic recommendations, specifically in the areas of retooling our agriculture and trade policies were adopted. This shows that the ‘all hands on deck’ approach was necessary from both branches on government”, he stated.
Abdullahi further noted that although the nation is now out of the recession, the Senate remains committed to seeing that the unemployment rate and high cost of living in the country is brought down.
“The rising unemployment in the country is an issue that is of much concern to all of us. Additionally, the rising cost of food prices and basic services in the country still affects millions of households. This is why we will continue to work on our laws, specifically in the areas of access to credit to promote more opportunities for small business owners; and opening up more sectors to private sector participation, so that there will be more competition in our markets — which will lead to lower prices.
“We will also continue to work with the executive to ensure that our policy and legislative objectives, specifically as they relate to the economy, are well-aligned,” the Senate spokesman said.