Opinion

The path to economic revival

with Olu Obafemi  SMS only:08033341157, [email protected]

NO discerning Nigerian patriot—including those in the saddle of governance—is or should be in any doubt about the frightening decline of the nation’s economy. This nose-dive has been inevitable for some time—judging from the monocultural character of the economy (a renter economy based on one product—oil and gas), non-diversified econ­omy whose fortunes take a course and a route down the pit. The price of crude oil has crumbled, almost irreparably, and no appeal to OPEC to take a sympathetic look at nations like ours who are solely depended on the oil to consider our plight in price administration will do, seeing that the matter does not rest or recline solely on PEC, when the United States, our nation’s biggest importer of crude has decided to cut down on petroleum products, hence dealing a mortal blow on the price of oil universally, our nation being one of the worst hit.
It has thus become imperative that the Buhari government come out forthwith with its economic blueprint or policy and strategy to salvage the near-comatose economy. Nigerian economic and intellectual pundits have been courageous in nudging the government, with its proclaimed change-agenda to reflect this in its economic strategies and systematized vision. One such entreaties have come, recently from Pro­fessor Wole Soyinka who has asked for an urgent national debate on economic reform. Another, and perhaps the most consistent and most unsparing voice on the need for the gov­ernment to engage in drawing up a fundamental economic recovery policy is Idowu Akinlotan, the author of the Palla­dium column The Nation, who again, last Saturday eloquent­ly nudged President Buhari to complement his massively ef­fective and nationally propped anti-corruption crusade with a programmatic, well-articulated economic retrieval policy. In his last Sunday’s column, Palladium has re-articulated his sustained imploring of government by recalling the fact that the campaign Manifesto of the All Progressives Congress (APC) already carries sufficient mandate and philosophy for revamping the economy. This, eight-point Manifesto, which contributed to the victory of the party in the 2015 Presidential Elections had as its constituents, the eradication of corruption, food security through a credible Agricultural policy, infrastructural provision, especially massive power supply, improved health care regime, participatory democracy to ensure adherence to the rule of law, enhanced social justice, equity and egalitarianism and priori­tization of education in a knowledge society. This vibrant and re-assuring Manifesto has been found to have been jettisoned, beached or ignored by the President, requires be resusci­tating and re-inventing by the government if it hoped to stem the phenomenal stride toward a total collapse of the economy.
It is pleasing that the President did indicate that he would heed the call to authorise an economic Summit soon but the urge is that it should not be another jamboree like the previ­ous political Summits whose outcome never sees the light of day. A more pragmatic pro­posal from Palladium, one which is worth se­rious consideration is that the President should set a small group of economic experts/purists to design a policy framework that can set the nation on the path of rapid or assure economic revamp/reform/recovery. This is a patriotic proposal which the President will be well ad­vised to consider. There is nothing wrong in a government recognizing its own limitation and bringing from among Nigerians—ir­respective or their political and party affilia­tions—who are endowed and knowledgeable in economic matters to help it set things right. Nobody is in doubt of the President’s strong points; his impeccable integrity, incorruptibil­ity and zero tolerance for corruption and his covetable character of rectitude and discipline. But these personal qualities will not advance the economy on their own. They will provide the leadership to manage sound economic pol­icies when they are designed and articulated.
It is also gratifying to hear the President speak of his intention not to surrender the economy and economic plans of his govern­ment to the whims and dictates of the Inter­national Monetary Funds. It is a position that I have canvassed in this column a few times. This is to the effect previously, our governing and intellectual elite are bent on parodying the development strategies, political systems and economic institutions as promulgated by the West—absurd systems which ask us to de-emphasize public policies aimed at delivering public goods and services, qualitative educa­tion demanded by the knowledge economy and society of the twenty-first century as al­ready embraced by our erstwhile counterparts in developing countries who have now be­come developed while we keep embracing, led by our mimic elite, the Breton Wood’s finance institutions founded on neo-liberalism, privatization and deregulation which, by and large, will continue to impoverish the masses and stunt social development.
It is for this reason, we opined, that the Bu­hari government, whose avowed agenda and declared intention is to bring about rapid socio-economic transformation to the nation, must make haste slowly in the uncritical embrace­ment of the ‘standard practices and institutions’ thrust on our easy laps by the West and whose screaming absurdities have become deafen­ing. We found this economic parentalism in the visit of the President of the IMF recently .
Yes, the euphoria of change is pervasive in Nigeria today, based on the body language of President Buhari—his integrity, patriotism, ac­countability and commitment. His anti-corrup­tion and anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency crusades are massive and effective. His inter­national thrust toward the West for support on security, war against Boko Haram and the economy, is registering positive yields already in America, Germany and now France. As the President is yet to bring out the economic blue-print, strategies, structures and policies for his transformation programme, this is the time to advice a more cautious self-haul on the de­veloped Northern countries of the world. The principle of once beaten twice shy is worthy parodying if we are to avoid the economic and political absurdities that have so far aided our developmental un-doing because of their ba­sically conservative macro-economic nature. Let us also cast our searchlight in the oriental direction where there appears to be the great economic leap of the times—and the West knows it and is scared by it! It is absurd for us to simply parody the policies of neo-liberal economy of free trade and investment, priva­tization and market forces, as laid out by the International Development Policy Establish­ment (IDPE) at the head of IMF/World Bank and WTO. We know that many of these de­veloped countries took a different route from the neo-liberal institutional strategy they com­mend to and aim to impose on us. Britain came to economic prosperity through industri­alization, found on its Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. Germany, France and others did not come to economic growth and devel­opment through ‘market forces.’
Our new government is right to seek sup­port but it must not be as a first resort. It must be in aid of a conscious, indigenously, inde­pendently grown alternative development strategy, based on the potentials and needs of our people and country itself. These Northern countries, as we know, give support, not in a father-Christmas fashion, but from the vantage of their own national interests.
The Buhari government should learn from the absurd economic practices of the past, from as far back as the mid-eighties—from Baban­gida regime, when the IMF and the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) were floated, debated and rejected but admitted through the back-door. The nation debated and rejected IMF. The government brought it into operation through the backyard—through some absurd formula called conditionalities. And yet, this was the backdrop against which Babangida wondered aloud why the nation’s economy had not collapsed, in spite of the pounding it had received from governments and their policies (such as IMF and SAP, SFEM, and so on!) From then on, the nation embarked on a journey of decline– of seeming no return.
It is therefore very heartening to hear Presi­dent Buhari talk with such confidence and re-assuring verve that the nation’s interest comes first, against the dictates of multi-national organizations like the International Monetary Fund. This is the way to go and this will be­come effective and when the plan not to de­value our currency materializes in a vibrant home-grown economic blue-print built around a diversified economy.

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