The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has called for a comprehensive review of the nation’s current economic policies, ensuring a competitive economy that encourages production and discourages importation. Obaseki noted that the step was necessary to create job opportunities and place the country on the path of sustainable economic growth and development. The governor spoke while addressing participants at the South-South Human Capital Development Regional Conference, with the theme, “Accelerating HCD in the South-South,” held at the Government House, Benin City. The Conference focused on three key areas that enhance the development of human capital, including Education, Health/Nutrition and Labour force Participation.
Obaseki said, “Without a national economic policy to foster job creation, even with enough trained labour force from the states, the scarcity of jobs will continually bedevil the nation. We cannot develop without developing the capacity of our people. If you have a healthy population and train them well, you will have a good labour force. This is one area where we need a responsible nationally-managed economy because it’s our national economic policies that create the jobs. Unless we begin to think and seriously change our economic policies, the issues of job creation will continue to be a big problem. It doesn’t mean we should not train our people for work, but our economic policies will help us create incentives, ensuring competitive and high-paying jobs for our people,” he added.
According to him, “The bulk of the jobs come from manufacturing and agriculture. So, if we encourage people to invest in oil palm plantation here and somebody can go to Abuja and get a license to import at a subsidised exchange rate, why would somebody spend 20 years investing in oil palm plantation?
“If we continue to spend 40 billion dollars a year buying goods and services that we can make for ourselves, that means we have taken 40 billion dollars worth of work abroad. So, the labour market we are now talking about is for menial labour and before you know it, they have gone to Japan or other countries.” Reiterating the need to increase investment in education and healthcare, Obaseki stated, “We should stop sermonising healthcare and deal with it as an everyday issue. The emphasis should be to channel the bulk of our resources on primary health care, strengthen the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs), equip, and train the practitioners to be able to better handle issues.” The governor further noted, “Healthcare is not cheap. So, the Health Insurance Scheme should be aligned with the economic reality in Nigeria to ensure coverage of the local traders and others in the society. For education, we should no longer focus on certificates but on knowledge and skills. We have to ensure systems are in place to guarantee children are not just in school but are learning. We have to be very clear about how we define our schools and train teachers to align with the pedagogy.”