The government must diversify the economy if Nigeria is to survive falling global oil prices, World Bank Vice President and Treasurer Arunma Otteh said yesterday.
She said Nigeria ranks 152nd out of 188 in the Human Development Index, and ranks below the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
Otteh spoke in Lagos while delivering the inaugural Philip Asiodu Lecture Series, with the theme: “The proper role of oil in the context of accelerating growth and development in Nigeria.”
It was organized in honor of a former diplomat and Minister of Petroleum, Phillip Asiodu.
Life expectancy in Nigeria, Otteh said, is 53, eight years lower than in Ghana and 21 years lower than in Brazil.
On corruption, Otteh referred to the Transparency International’s 2015 report which places Nigeria at 136 out of 168 most corrupt countries. This, she said, affects the flow of foreign direct investment.
“Nigeria rapid GDP growth over the past decade has not translated into strong human development and competitiveness compared to the rest of the world even when compared to many of its sub-Saharan African peers,” she said.
Otteh said Nigeria can no longer depend only on earning from oil, which now sells for as low as $26 per barrel, and which accounts for 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange.
“Given the level of price uncertainty and Nigeria’s dependence on oil, it is all the more important to diversify away from oil,” she said.
According to her, the oil industry needs reform, especially through amendment of laws governing the sector, some of which she said date back to the 1950s.
Calling for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, she said: “A legal framework is extremely important because weaknesses in the sector have other consequences.”
Otteh said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation should be listed in the stock market. Doing so, she said, will lead to more transparency in the management of petroleum resources and prevent “discretionary spending” lack of accountability
“Abundant availability of oil is one of Nigeria’s comparative advantages and diversifying its economy away from oil should not be construed as not taking advantage of efficient linkages between oil and related industries,” she said.
Otteh believes conceptualizing sound development plans, effectively implementing and monitoring them, backed by a vision that should be regularly re-evaluated, will take Nigeria to the next level.
“Nigeria’s future must be captured in a comprehensive development plan. Nigeria must do more to improve on the well-being of its citizens,” she said.
Asiodu believes Nigeria suffers from “Dutch disease,” which he said has developed into “other diseases.”
“The Dutch cured themselves of the disease very quickly,” he said.
Asiodu added: “There must be a long-term vision. We need leaders who commit to that vision.”
A professor of economics, Akin Iwayemi said Nigeria’s development will depend on political will.
According to him, excellence cannot be achieved without paying a price. He added that Nigeria must also invest in research, science and technology, which form the basis of development.