IN RESPONSE TO A FRIEND ON OUR ECONOMY

By Prince Agwu

Pierre Hadot once said – “transformation is the moral nature of politics. Except it transforms people completely, politics is nothing better than a compromise with evil”. If much of politics is economics and much of economics is politics as asserted by Machiavelli, then, both are factors that would forever remain correlations.

In statecraft, the most important yardstick for development is the wellbeing of the average man as determined by the policies, laws, appropriations and institutions of the state, founded on a people-oriented style of governance. Anything outside the lot of the average man, is fictional and cosmetic.

Since the discovery of oil in 1956,it has in all ramification, built our economy base and at same time, killed our people owing to lack of ecological, social and political protection. The 1950s Willink’s commission report served as a palliative measure to mitigate or eradicate the negative consequences of the discovered oil resource. A negation of a proper review and implementation of that report by successive governments, brought us to resource-curse. However, the Petroleum Industry bill bears factors of that report with special attention to the unbundling of the Petroleum house in the stead of deregulation, which will allow market forces to determine oil price and equally provide for better accountability of the oil project. But, Senatorial witches have consistently clamped on the passage of that bill.

With falling prices of oil at the globe and the introduction of pinnacle America into the oil scene; the lifting of oil-trade sanctions on Iran by America, it becomes obvious that countries largely depending on the commodity might not smile. The 20$ or less, as predicted by the IMF, might become a reality. This however, would imply us returning to the 1999 economy of 15$ oil price. Thus, Nigeria being affected by this blow, must first tell itself the truth and ensure that there is an equilibrium in the management of our fiscal, monetary, trading and industrial policies, with deregulation and diversification becoming key elements. Unfortunately, the obvious disconnections at these economic levels seem scary.

The call for austerity is an appropriate one. But austerity without hope is seemingly to 40 years through the wilderness for a supposedly 11 days walk. Let us not forget that Vision 2020 is now four years away. On austerity still, how wise should it be that a government whose prophecies of a bleak future, offering cardiac arrest to many, brings to the table an increase 1 trillion naira debt profile in addition to some billions it inherited which it lucidly castigated as economic assassination? An increment of over 50% on state-house spendings pegged at 18.1b naira; 1.4b naira on presidential travels which is 470m naira more than the previous; 3.6b naira on maintenance of presidential air fleets it also once castigated as maliciously frivolous. What more austerity should be advised to the average man who lives in the scare of loosing his job at anytime?

The diversification of the economy is one we must applaud the previous government. According to Afriheritage, the past government handed over an economy of $550billion to the “change” government. Our economy by such feat, became the largest in Africa and 26th in the world which a little more effort would shift it into top 20, thereby accomplishing Vision 2020. Surprisingly, it is on records that a greater percentage of the $550 billion  economy by GDP, came from non-oil resources. If such is to be sustained in the spirit of diversity, why do we have a proposed 29billion naira appropriated to the Ministry of Agriculture as against 39billion naira to the Ministry of Information &  Culture?

To shield our economy from collapsing on a continuum, the government has decided to allocate a historical appropriation to Education consisting of three levels the sum of 369 billion naira.  If 500,000 graduates should be employed as teachers on an average monthly pay of 40,000# (for underemployment reasons) we will have 129billion left, which mobilisation and retraining could consume 29 billion naira. So, the three sectors of Education would be left to improve its lot with just a 100 billion naira. You can make your conclusion.

Finally, given our predicaments now with the juxtaposition of major growth/development indices of the Nigerian nation, the bane of our remedy rests on a visionary government that operates with collectivism principles and people-oriented style of governance. “In vein we build the city if we don’t first build the man”  –  Edwin Markham. That man is the average man on the street waiting to pledge his patriotism to Nigeria without compulsion. What then happens when his job is taken away from him; when he has no job and when he has no assistance to create a job?

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