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Strong public sector essential for economic recovery – Dons

Etim Ekpimah, Uyo

Economists and social scientists from the University of Uyo, University of Calabar, and the University of Port Harcourt, have said that public enterprises are crucial to the economic development of the country.

Noting that Nigeria had not made significant economic progress since 1985, the Director of the Claude Ake School of Government at the University of Port Harcourt, Prof., Eme Enekwe, said that many public enterprises were shut down because they were structured in such a way that the enterprises had to rely on raw materials imported into the country.

Enekwe said the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were geared towards ensuring that public sectors in developing countries do not play active roles in their economies.

He said, “I urge us to look at the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, which has just been passed. One of the elements of that bill is the return of the oil industry into private hands. There is a concerted international struggle, led by the likes of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund to make sure that public sectors in developing countries do not play active roles.”

Also, speaking on the Anthony Ani Professorial Chair on Public Finance on Monday, a professor of Economy and the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Calabar, Ndem Ayara, said that content and discontent were the issues that militated against the public enterprises in the country.

He said that Nigerians, instead of seeing the public sector as the umpire to provide an enabling environment for the private sector, would rather consider them as cake bakers.

 Also, stressing that with this notion, government stole the country’s resources through the budget, he said, “What is currently wrong with the Nigerian public sector? The public sector is gradually evolving from the periods that we were looking at it as an umpire, where they were to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.

“People are increasingly beginning to look at them as cake bakers. They are saying that they want government to do this or that. In the process of trying to do that through the budget, government steals the resources. In the end, we don’t get what we are looking for.”

However, Ayara advised against increasing the number of public enterprises, saying that it would amount to producing more thieves in the country

He said, “If we continue to argue from the dimension of size, whether the size is based on structure or on the number of persons in the public sector, because of the nature of our economy where we are dependent on the extraction of natural resources that we don’t really work for, people will see easy money and they will steal it and make the private sector very hanky and somehow paralysed.”

Prof. Christopher Ekong of the Department of Economic Development, University of Uyo; and Dr. Aniekan Brown of the Students Affairs, spoke variously on the social aspects of the public sector.

Ekong linked the corruption in public enterprises to how Nigeria was formed without consultation. He added that the development translated into other Nigerians going to Lagos as the country’s capital to steal and return home, among others.

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