Lim Hwee Hua, a former minister in the Singaporean government, once said that the government should be a “thoughtful investor” rather than a “thoughtless regulator” in its approach to business. This sentiment is particularly relevant to the Nigerian government’s involvement in business, as it highlights the importance of ensuring that government intervention is strategic and well-planned.
The Nigerian government’s involvement in business has been both a friend and a foe to the country’s economy. On the one hand, government intervention has helped to stimulate economic growth, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and create jobs. On the other hand, it has also led to inefficiencies, corruption, and unfair competition, which have hindered the growth of the private sector and reduced the country’s overall economic performance.
To be a friend to business, the Nigerian government must adopt a thoughtful approach to its involvement in the economy. This means that it should carefully consider the costs and benefits of its interventions and ensure that they are targeted towards areas where the private sector is unlikely to invest or where market failures exist.
One area where the government can play a positive role is in infrastructure development. Nigeria has a significant infrastructure deficit, which has hindered economic growth and development. The government’s investment in infrastructure can help to address this deficit and create a more conducive environment for business to thrive. However, the government must ensure that its investment in infrastructure is strategic and targeted towards areas that have the greatest impact on economic growth, such as transportation, energy, and telecommunications.
Another area where the government can be a friend to business is in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. The government can do this by providing access to finance, training and mentoring, and creating a regulatory environment that is conducive to business development. For example, the government can establish incubators and accelerators to support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and provide tax incentives to businesses that invest in research and development.
However, the government must be careful not to stifle innovation and entrepreneurship by imposing excessive regulations or engaging in unfair competition. The government should ensure that its regulations are proportionate and do not impose unnecessary burdens on businesses. It should also avoid engaging in businesses that compete with private companies, as this can create market distortions and reduce competition.
To be a thoughtful investor, the Nigerian government must also be transparent and accountable in its interventions. Transparency and accountability are essential to prevent corruption and ensure that public resources are used efficiently and effectively. The government should establish clear criteria for its interventions and subject them to regular evaluation to ensure that they are achieving their intended objectives.
Furthermore, the government must engage in meaningful consultations with stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, and citizens, to ensure that its interventions are responsive to the needs of the economy and society. This can help to build trust and confidence in the government’s interventions and ensure that they are sustainable over the long term.
In conclusion, the Nigerian government’s involvement in business can be a friend or a foe to the economy depending on how it is implemented. To be a friend, the government must adopt a thoughtful approach that is targeted towards areas where market failures exist or where the private sector is unlikely to invest. It must also promote innovation and entrepreneurship, be transparent and accountable in its interventions, and engage in meaningful consultations with stakeholders. By doing so, the government can create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and contribute to the country’s economic growth and development.