Friday, 6 November 2015

REFORMS FOR THE RECORD: Change in Government Structure...

During the Administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a number of bold reforms were undertaken. The Administration’s vision for good governance; transparency; peace in civil society; freedom in the media; and stability in institutions led to a number of electoral, transparency, justice, procurement, human development, civil service and other relevant reforms. Many of these reforms led to measurable improvements; for example, for the first time, provision of electricity is starting to improve across the country, the national road network is being rehabilitated, trains are moving and agriculture is being transformed. There are some clear underlying reasons why reforms in these sectors have started to work which are outlined below.

Increase in private sector investment: In working to ensure economic stability and growth, this Administration has focused on developing an enabling environment for private sector led inclusive growth. The reform initiatives have gradually reduced the footprint of government in business activities, through privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation. As a result of creating an environment of policy certainty, healthy competition and facilitated domestic and international investment and trade the Administration is starting to enable the private sector to be the main driver of inclusive economic growth. 

The private sector is also a key vehicle for job creation and it has been recognised that inclusive growth can only take place shared opportunities and the participation of a large part of the country’s labour force. With this acknowledgment there has been a specific focus on reforms and private sector investment in sectors which can create these jobs and opportunities – for example Mass Housing, Solid Minerals and Mining.

There has been a recognition that economic stability and growth require reforms which are participatory, and not merely driven by individuals. As a result, a National Economic Management Team (NEMT) - including members of the private sector for the first time - is regularly meeting to agree on economic policies and to tap into the experience brought by the private sector.

A focus on infrastructure reform: It has been recognised that wealth creation, long-term economic growth and infrastructure development are mutually reinforcing. However, under previous reform efforts there have continued to be infrastructure-funding gaps in Nigeria, resulting in completely inadequate infrastructure to support growth. To address this, the Administration has brought private sector investments into infrastructure projects through public private partnerships (PPP) which has created both challenges but also enormous opportunities for the private sector. 

To date this has been particularly evident in the power sector since the launch of the Road Map for Power Sector Reform in 2010. The emphasis of this road map was on the privatisation of power generation and distribution and the construction of a new transmission network. The objective was to improve the electricity system in a sustainable manner and to enhance the business environment for active private sector participation. Incentives have been given to investors, for example to exploit hydro, coal and natural gas, to their fullest potential, given that as solar, wind, nuclear and biomass power remain high cost and have long lead times. Although many of the gains from the Administration’s reforms in the power sector are yet to be realised, the stage has been set for a future where Nigerians can have access to an affordable and reliable electricity supply.

A focus on Human Capital Development: It has been understood by this Administration that, to ensure that rapid economic growth translates into better quality of life for all Nigerians, there needs to be a parallel focus on investment in education, health and youth and women’s development. The need for reforms in these areas has been recognised as necessary in their own right but also to ensure that Nigeria has a good and healthy workforce which can compete for global opportunities and ensure a better life for the next generation.

Health – although there was an attempt to reform the health sector in 2004, problems of weak health infrastructure, inadequate financing and fragmented delivery have remained. The difference in the reform efforts of this Administration is that reforms started with the development of a clear roadmap for reform of the service, which was the first of its kind in the sector. This National Strategic Health Development Plan (NHSDP) - developed through a participatory process - addresses the major factors preventing effective service delivery and provided the framework for which the National Health Bill was reviewed against and submitted to the National Assembly. Furthermore, for the first time, the private sector has started to invest in the health sector with over 200 private health sector leaders across the healthcare value chain being engaged and the first ever private sector health summit has been convened.

EducationAs with the health sector, reforms have largely been achieved through the development of a 4-year strategic plan which provided a roadmap for reform. The transformation policies identified in this plan, and subsequently carried out, have succeeded in improving education facilities, provided better teacher training and impacted significantly on the access and quality of education in Nigeria.

Women, Youth and Social Development – There has been a realisation that development policy efforts that target women have a huge impact on poverty reduction. Although gender issues have been at the centre of many government policies in Nigeria, their implementation has been difficult. The Jonathan Administration has demonstrated commitment to mainstreaming gender in policy making. Women are now more visible and involved in governance and decision making than ever before. For example, women’s representation in government is higher than ever before with women making up 31% of Ministers and 23% of Special Advisors.

Involvement of Civil Society: There has been the recognition that good governance requires every individual and every community to become an equal member of society and to engage in developing the future state of society. Engendering well-sequenced governance reforms would enshrine fairness in elections, transparency, peace in civil society and integrity, but, for this to happen, there needs to be a real emphasis on consultation and dialogue, process and procedure, clear and need-driven project conception and extensive expansion of civil space.

Accountability, transparency and anti-corruption measures have been embedded in a comprehensive reform programme with improved consultative processes between public sector and all stakeholders including scrutiny by civil society organisations.

The Jonathan Administration remained committed to expanding civil space for democracy and civic participation with the belief that this contributes to good governance. This has given rise to a huge growth in civil society groups activate in civil rights and engaged in political activism. Between 2010 and 2013, the federal government has incorporated many demands from the people into its policies and activities, in a way that is unprecedented, and has even reversed some governmental decisions based on the complaints and suggestions of the people. Trade disputes are now increasingly resolved through dialogue, and citizens have started to have a sense of participation in issues of governance. 

Reference:  Public Service Reforms in Nigeria (1999-2014) - A Comprehensive Review

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