Bola Tinubu, the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has urged the federal government to ramp up its spending in order to spur economic growth.
This is despite the persistent rise of Nigeria’s total public debt under President Muhammadu Buhari.
The country’s debt status has continued to rise following the president’s decision to keep servicing the country’s ballooning budget with loans from foreign countries.
In December 2020, the country’s debt status rose to N32.915 from N32.222 trillion in September of the same year.
The former Lagos governor, at the Arewa House Lecture on Saturday, saw nothing wrong with continuous spending, highlighting economic utility and quality of expenditure as the main issues to be addressed.
He suggested that fiscal wisdom, not austerity was needed to push Nigeria’s economy forward.
“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,” Mr Tinubu said.
“Fiscal wisdom but not necessarily austerity is required for an economy like ours in a time like this, to ensure equitable wealth redistribution and meaningful use of resources,” he added.
The APC chieftain, who has intensified his nationwide consultation in preparation for his 2023 presidential run, advised the government to implement a national industrial policy to address the issue of unemployment currently ravaging the country.
“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.
“Urban populations are growing but urban jobs are not. Here, government must implement a national industrial policy to encourage key industries that begin to employ this growing urban workforce,” Mr Tinubu said.
Mr Tinubu’s position could rile some economists and political opponents who have been warning that rising debt and uncurbed government spending would only lead to further economic woes for the country.
Nigeria has seen a vast reduction in its oil earning in recent years, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Main opposition leader Atiku Abubakar warned recently that Mr Buhari should prune federal expenditures considerably and focus instead on job creation for the country’s teeming youth population.