By Bridget SAMUEL, Kaduna
FORMER LAGOS State Governor and leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said that, the cost of governance is always the key factor in the social- economy.
Tinubu who stated this in Kaduna on Saturday while chairing the 11th Annual Arewa House Lecture in Honour of the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, said problems that are essentially of an economic origin must also have an economic solution.
“At bottom we must tackle our deep and widespread poverty. If we limit government’s role under the erroneous assumption that government spending is intrinsically unproductive then we tether ourselves to failure.
“We would do well to more critically study how other populous nations such as the UK, US, Germany and China charted their course during their formative years. You will see that they did not adhere to small government or the purportedly free market. Government engaged in massive spending on infrastructure and education while also engaging in policies that protected industrial development and key aspects of the agricultural sector.
Speaking to the paper presented by the Guest Speeker and Governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Lalong titled; ‘Reducing The Cost of Governance For Inclusive Growth and Youth Development in Post Covid-19 Northern Nigeria’, Tinubu said, fiscal wisdom but not necessarily austerity is required for an economy like Nigeria in a time like this, to ensure equitable wealth redistribution and meaningful use of resources.
development of any nation. But it is also one side of an important coin. We must not look at the cost alone. We must weigh the cost against the benefits derived there from. For example, one can pay a high cost on a productive enterprise but reap a higher benefit. Such would be considered a good investment.
“However, one can pay a low cost but reap no benefit at all because the endeavour was inherently unproductive. This would be a waste. Thus, we must be careful in what we say and truly mean when we talk of the costs of governance.
“The development of any populous nation has always been dependent on the ability of government to allocate sufficient funds to projects and programs that create and encourage enduring growth and employment. We must reject that mode of thinking that assumes government expenditure is inherently unproductive as well as harmful to the overall economy.
“It is not the fact that government expenditure is intrinsically wrong any more than one can say all private sector activity is economically positive. Government can be wasteful or it can be the key component to growth just as a private sector business can function profitably or spend itself into bankruptcy. The issue is not whether government is spending money or not. The real issue is the economic utility and quality of the expenditure.
“The years have shown that the private sector is much too weak to spur the growth we need. If the private sector could manage this feat, it would have already done so. Where the private sector is too weak or unable, the government must fill the void. This means government must not be afraid to embark on an activist fiscal policy to create jobs, build infrastructure and develop our industrial sector as well as continue to improve agriculture. This means government must spend money but spend it on those things that bring the requisite economic returns for the nation.
“Here, one must make the point about the urgency of the need to think outside of the box in finding solutions to the challenges posed by our unemployed youth. Because of the currency issuing power of the federal government, it is not bound to balance budgets like individuals and state governments are. Moreover, because of this currency power, federal expenditures are not constrained by federal tax or revenue intake. Just as importantly, what I advocate is something that can be applied to both the common and unique developmental challenges of the north and south so that the nation moves in unison without any group or region feeling left out or estranged from national progress.
“Thus, while states and local government must shape their budgets to fit thei revenues, the federal government can and should spend more to create more jobs for the youth in both the north and south which is key to eradicating restiveness and sundry criminality among the youth. Take a look at the world.
“Those nations that recovered most quickly from the 2009 economic crisis and now from COVID-19 are those nations that most engaged in government stimulus spending to revive their flagging economies. This was not by accident. It is due to purposeful policy and the deeper understanding of the nature of money and a the role of a national government in saving a flagging economy.
“Thus, America recently embarked on US$1.9 trillion stimulus to boost the economy. It was not said that this government spending would erode jobs but that it would create them. Thus, we should not be so against government spending. If it is for the right purposes, it can do essential things that the private sector cannot. What we should be against is wasteful government spending.
“Building vital infrastructure such as irrigation and water catchment systems will help agriculture, arrest desertification and provide jobs. Only government has the power and resources to call forth such a program. Another readily available area primed for investment is the agro allied industry which, for the northern region is particularly advantageous,” he said.
Tinubu while extoling the virtues of Sardauna, said, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello was more than just the premier of the Northern region, but stood among the founding fathers of the great country, noting that, his nation-building contributions can never be overstated and should never be forgotten.
“He laboured tirelessly and with great tact and intelligence. Working together with other shining lights such as the late sage Papa Obafemi Awolowo and the esteemed Nnamdi Azikiwe, this great Sardauna of Sokoto helped establish Nigeria as one indivisible and independent nation.
“He was one of the chief architects and builders laying the foundation for the nation destined to be the leader of Africa and a model for the black race. It is upon the foundation laid by these extraordinary men that we must continue to build so that Nigeria may achieve its manifest destiny and realise the promise of a greatness too long deferred,” said Tinubu.