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Big government reloaded: TheScoop Analysis of APC’s #NextLevel manifesto

Politics

Big government reloaded: TheScoop Analysis of APC’s #NextLevel manifesto

The 2019 Presidential campaign officially began this week. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has unveiled an abridged form of its electoral manifesto to Nigerians ahead of the 2019 elections as it hopes to keep President Muhammadu Buhari in power for the next four years (2019 – 2023).

Important to note: The APC released this document entitled ‘Next Level’ to much fanfare but similar documents released by the party in the buildup to the last elections were roundly denied by the presidency and the ruling party immediately they won the election.

Having said that, TheScoop’s editorial team analysed the ‘Next Level’ document and stripped it into what you need to know.

APC expressed belief that in spite of the difficulty that the platform has encountered, it has “worked hard” to deliver on its key promises made to the Nigerian people over 3 years ago. “Foundational work is often not visible, neither is it glamorous – but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire,” the party said in its intro.

Things to note:

We await the complete document, but this abridged version does not present any high ambition or drastic change in outlook from the administration’s current trajectory.

The party’s big assumption is that its current efforts have been successful and so it just hopes to scale things up along the same path.

Based on what the APC is proposing, government will get bigger. The party is counting on a government-driven growth, not a private sector led growth. If any ideology can be gleaned from the APC document, it is a belief in a socialist type economy where the federal government hopes to turn things around by expanding its role in business and the economy.

Some of the issues outlined are as follows:

Two new Government owned Banks: The APC wants to establish the “People Moni Bank” and “The Entrepreneur Bank”. Note: Similar existing government owned banks like the Bank of Agriculture or the Federal Mortgage Bank are performing poorly with issues ranging from capitalisation to redundancy.  The proposed Entrepreneur Bank will have a mandate to provide soft loans to support business ideas. That mandate appears to be a duplication of what the existing Bank of Industry (BOI) does. The irony is that the current administration has failed to reduce interest rates that would enable commercial and microfinance banks to do what their primary businesses should be which is retail banking. Yet it is betting on big government establishing new banks as a solution.

Engage 1,000,000 N-Power graduates: This is up by 100% from the current claims of about 500,000 grads. Again, the government is thinking away from catalyzing private sector to lead job creation and instead betting on itself to do the job. The current fiscal situation of the country means that proposals such as this are not sustainable. Governments across board are already borrowing to pay salaries; the federal government is bailing states out with funds to pay salaries; and with the expected increase in minimum wage, the recurrent burden on the government is terribly unwieldy. For a government struggling to accede to Labour’s demands for a wage raise, it is unclear where it intends to finance the new 500,000 N-power jobs. There is also no clear evidence that this would have a long term impact with regards to reducing unemployment.

Develop 109 (Senatorial Districts wide) Special Production and Processing Centres: Explained in lay terms, this means that the Federal Government wants to create new factories within communities across all the senatorial districts for the country. This is an unbelievable promise – 109-government owned factories producing what exactly? Let us assume that the government even has the resources to fund this, there is no evidence that similar efforts have been successful or that government owned and run factories have a good success rate across all levels.

Expand school feeding programme to cover additional 5.8 million people: This is a significant increase in coverage from the existing claims of 9.2 million beneficiaries. The school feeding programme is in itself a lofty idea that can help to improve social development outcomes provided that there is matching investment to improve the quality of education.  But, the APC led government considers the programme also as a way of expanding agriculture jobs which means that government would be the primary consumer of the produce from these farmers. It sounds logical but again sustainability is a big question given the over-reliance of the Nigerian government on largely unreliable oil prices.

Side Note – Why the APC jobs promises matter: The APC’s jobs plan which is relying on government as the primary driver is important to analyse because it is the ruling party. In 2015, it also campaigned on a platform that propagated the big government ideology. Pres. Buhari’s 2015 manifesto identified the lack of jobs in the country as “the most critical challenge facing Nigeria today”, and then it promised that the APC will “create 20,000 jobs per state immediately”, “provide allowances to discharged but unemployed youth corps members for 12 months”, “establish plants for the assembly and manufacture of phones, tablets, computers, and other devices”, among other government-driven promises that have not been fulfilled, and have now been dumped in the new manifesto. Fresh promises of big government interventions are now being made without an explanation on why the old promises were not kept.

Sweet deal for Tech?: The APC #NextLevel manifesto offers a sweet deal for people in tech and creative businesses although it is unclear what the offering is just by reading the text of the current version of the manifesto. The offers to the industry includes: Procurement of startup services by promoting quotas, $500m innovation fund, Promotion of access to free internet at public locations and introduction of coding, robotics, animation and design thinking into the educational curriculum.

Where is the anti-corruption plan? There are many things missing in the APC abridged manifesto but it makes sense to point out that the document made no mention of fighting corruption. That is strange considering that the president and vice president have basically framed their messaging in the past couple of months around fighting “grand corruption.”

Funniest bit: The funniest section in the APC manifesto was titled “Inclusion in government.” The party, without irony, promised to “achieve 35% in female appointments” and “more youth appointments for boards.” President Buhari has been in power for almost four years during which he has led the most exclusive government in Nigerian history, falling far short of the numbers reached by his predecessors in both women and youth inclusion. The government is also perceived to have fallen short in ensuring tribal diversity in its appointments. Suddenly, the APC is making affirmative promises in the new document as though it is an opposition party.

Bottom line: The APC manifesto is a proposal for big government. The private sector and the market economy are almost treated as an afterthought. The document also mostly acts as though it exists in isolation, glossing over the context and the fact that it is the ruling government.

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