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Nigeria's dull cabinet reflects compromise culture

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's largely uninspiring cabinet reflects a political compromise that will make the job of transforming Africa's most populous nation much tougher for the core of reformers he has chosen

Reuters , Wednesday 20 Jul 2011
Views: 976
Views: 976

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has made a series of pledges since he was sworn in for his first full term on May 29, after winning what observers said were the fairest elections Africa's most populous nation has held since the end of military rule in 1999.

He needs a stellar team to come good on his promises to boost job creation, unlock the world's eighth-largest gas reserves and turnaround the abysmal state of the electric power sector, a major brake on sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest economy.

Jonathan had to carefully balance his ministerial choices around geographical and ethnic groups and reward those who helped him during a fiercely contested election period.

The retention of many ministers with poor records and some controversial appointments left few spaces for genuine reformers, although the inclusion of former World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was met with widespread optimism.

Okonjo-Iweala is expected to become Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, an expanded version of the role she held between 2003 and 2006 when she successfully negotiated Nigerian debt relief.

During her screening by lawmakers she was quick to highlight the need to trim the cost of government, which has been a concern for economists and investors. Recurrent expenditure accounts for well over half of government spending despite poor public services.

A strong finance minister could be the catalyst for reform in a country that faces corruption challenges, an economy over reliant on commodity exports and fiscal transparency concerns.

"She delivered on a landmark debt deal last time which is a great achievement but her challenge now will be to prove herself on the domestic level, which could be a greater challenge," said Antony Goldman, Nigeria expert and head of PM Consulting.

One of the president's highest priority sectors will be run by new power minister Bart Nnaji, who was in charge of the power sector prior to the elections as the head of the presidential power task force.


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