Bola Bolawole: Fresh ideas to run the economy

Bola Bolawole: Fresh ideas to run the economy

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 1:20 pm


Buhari

Buhari

By Bola Bolawole

Everywhere we turn today, strains, stresses, and anxieties confront Nigerians. Had we reliable statistics, it certainly will reveal an upsurge in the number of the population succumbing to high blood pressure or even going completely overboard. Not only are the times hard and harsh, the prognosis for the future are no less bleak. An increasing number of Nigerians today live below the poverty level more than ever before. If, in the past, the percentage was put at around 70 percent when the population was between 100 and 120 million; today, that percentage should hover around 80 and 85 percent in a population said to be close to 175 million. The electorate did the needful by changing the “clueless and incompetent” Goodluck Jonathan administration; eight months down the road, the APC\Muhammadu Buhari administration that came aboard as replacement is, however, yet to find its feet.

One thing Buhari has succeeded in doing since his inauguration as president in May last year is opening the Pandora’s Box of the mind-boggling corruption that sign-posted the Jonathan administration. The revelations from the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency have left many Nigerians not only speechless but also flustered. What, then, should we expect when the books of the CBN, NNPC, Amnesty programme etc are opened? Nigeria has moved from the country of “10 per-centres” in the 1960s to that of today’s “100 per-centres”. Money is voted for projects; not a sod is turned but the money so voted is diverted miles away and shared by leaders, many who were hitherto held in high esteem by the people. Budgets of trillions of Naira had, this way, vanished into thin air year-in, year-out while poverty deepened its stranglehold over the land.

To make matters worse, the new government has come at a time when the nation’s fortunes have dipped. Foreign exchange earner, crude oil, is having its worst ever run in living memory in the international market: A commodity that sold well above 100 US dollars per barrel now sells below 30 US dollars per barrel. The same, which bidders used to snap up, now runs after buyers with generous discounts. As they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions; therefore, as good-intentioned as the Buhari administration may be, if it cannot translate plans into action it will soon lose traction. The groundswell of popular support will take no time to dissipate and the confidence of the government itself will begin to wane as it meets with frustration at every turn. A frustrated and flustered government is a jerky, desperate, and vicious government not suited for the ethos of democratic governance and the nuances of civilised conduct.

The old managers of the economy inherited for Jonathan must give way so that new brooms that will sweep cleaner and better can take over. CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, has performed poorly and should, from all indications, be at his tether’s end. The Naira is in a free fall; yet, Emefiele goes to America to seek excuses for this! The cause or causes of the problems, according to him, are not here. Therefore, the solutions cannot be here. That is not only diversionary, it is also bunkum! Even where he admits that some policies of the past were contributory factors, he had presided over the implementation of the same policies for too long for him to exonerate himself from any blame. The man might have been an excellent banker; he has, nonetheless, been a dismal banker of bankers. He has to go!

Decisive action is needed on critical areas of our national life if an emergency situation is not to degenerate into an unmitigated disaster. The economy is in dire straits and needs new managers. The old hands must give way for new hands. Old ideas have failed and new ideas are now needed. Conventional wisdom has taken the economy thus far but the report card is nothing cheery at all; now new, bold, imaginative, innovative, and even radical views and ideas are needed to rescue the economy from an imminent collapse. This is the time for the CBN governor and his team to bow out and for a new crop of managers to take the handle. Since he took over, I have yet to hear of Buhari’s economic team. Has he any? If he does, this is the time to unveil it. If not; this is the time to constitute one. The old managers of the economy inherited for Jonathan must give way so that new brooms that will sweep cleaner and better can take over.

CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, has performed poorly and should, from all indications, be at his tether’s end. The Naira is in a free fall; yet, Emefiele goes to America to seek excuses for this! The cause or causes of the problems, according to him, are not here. Therefore, the solutions cannot be here. That is not only diversionary, it is also bunkum! Even where he admits that some policies of the past were contributory factors, he had presided over the implementation of the same policies for too long for him to exonerate himself from any blame.

The man might have been an excellent banker; he has, nonetheless, been a dismal banker of bankers. He has to go! With the Naira exchanging for over N300 to one US dollar in the black market, everyone is already a loser – the real sector of the economy, importers, consumers, as well as salary earners. The spiralling inflationary trend occasioned by a weakened Naira spares no one as cost of goods and services move upward.

Even cost of funds will balloon to make local production as well as the cost of locally-manufactured goods prohibitive. Government debts will expand and the cost of servicing these will climb. If the drift of the economy is not arrested fast, the 2016 budget will be dead on arrival. Without getting it right on the economy, the best of the efforts of the new administration will amount to nothing. A faltering economy negatively impacts every other aspect of the national life. Emefiele and his team should not be allowed to further waste the nation’s foreign reserves in fruitless efforts at defending a Naira that CBN policies truncate at source. A new CBN governor should be appointed without delay. He should be a man or woman who will query all assumptions, jettison all stereotypes, and upturn all orthodoxies. The time has come for us to apply home-grown solutions as opposed to IMF\World Bank-induced panaceas that have only deepened poverty everywhere.

We must chart a new course, run the necessary risks, and take our destiny in our own hands. No two countries are exactly the same; therefore, our peculiarities (or local content) in terms of strengths and weaknesses must be brought to bear in the envisaged new economic policies of the Buhari administration.


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