She, however, sounded a strong note of warning that Nigeria as the largest economy was likely to bear the brunt of any union or lunch that is not based on solid ground. She cautioned ECOWAS member states of the dire consequences of rushing to achieve economic integration and advised member countries of the region “to resist the stampede in the attempt to adhere to a set deadline capable of putting the economies on edge”
For example she reminded the gathering that “our tax to GDP ratio has fallen below the WAMZ level. After the rebasing, our tax to GDP ratio which was about 20 per cent at the WAMZ level is now 12 per cent. We are already working in order to improve on this particular criterion.”
The Nigerian finance minister noted that the 1st January 2015 deadline for ECOWAS currency union was not sacrosanct and urged member countries to learn lessons from the European countries who were fatally hit by the Euro zone crisis.
According to her, “look at the challenges (Euro zone) faced when some members were not quite ready but they went in to the union when it was apparent that not all of them were in a very solid platform but consequently you have seen when the financial crises came they were not able to withstand it . So before you go in, it is very important to get some basic things right because there is no body chasing us.”
The CME was very particular on the need to tread cautiously by acknowledging there was a target date for the adoption of a common currency for the region but that the date was not sacrosanct and advised ECOWAS countries to set another convenient feasible date if January 1st 2015 is not realistic.
In her words, “we have a target date, but let’s have a quality lunch that can be sustained if not, members countries will begin to exit when they can’t keep up with the criteria and that doesn’t help. So I would want all the countries to really focus on those criteria especially the macro-economic ones in case of fiscal deficit, the point is that Nigeria is the largest economy we are likely to bear the brunt of any union or lunch that is not based on solid ground. But I must commend the countries, they are trying very hard.”
She also stated that negotiations have been concluded on Common External Tariff (CET) and are ongoing on issues relating to European Partnership Agreement (EPA) at the ECOWAS level.
All these efforts she said are “not very easy, so let us take our time. If the time comes and we are not quite ready, we shouldn’t be shy to say we are not ready and rush to something because the consequences of a failed monetary union are sever. So we should do it in such a way we can always reflect”, she added.