Friday, June 17, 2016

Management Of The Nigerian Economy

By Dave Nwogbo  
The mismanagement of the Nigerian economy is an ominous exercise that will continue to provoke debates, controversies and analyses. The mismanagement has unleashed horrendous consequences on the life of Nigerians. The economy occupies a central and overarching position in the lives of the populace. It was in recognition of the primacy of material conditions that Karl Marx postulated the theory of dialectical materialism in which he asserted that economic relations are the major determining factor that shape social and political relations.

For over five decades, the Nigerian economy has suffered a chequered history. The ineptitude of the leadership elite in being unable to transform the economy is exemplified by its lack of vision, creativity and pragmatism. Neoliberalism was designed as a mechanism to engender the growth of economies through market determinism that is predicated on competition and efficiency in the allocation of resources. Regrettably, neoliberalism has compounded the economic woes of the populace, and the government has not introduced remedial measures to cushion the effect of the hardship it imposed on the people.

Sadly, whereas the people are consistently and unconscionably being called upon to make the necessary sacrifices by bearing the brunt of this management, they have nothing to show for the interminable streams of sacrifices which they have made over the years. This anomaly points to one thing: the populace pay the costly price for leadership and policy failures, and the governing elite does not give a damn. As it were, the populace have no stake in the Nigerian economy.
The recent increase in the price of petrol to N145 per litre demonstrates the inconsistency in government policies. Successive administrations increased the price of petrol sustained by the same mantra of freeing up more money to the government for development. But, in actual fact, has the populace benefitted from any increase in the pump price of petrol? What the populace have consistently witnessed over the years are increasing poverty rate, irregular power supply, unprecedented corruption, etc. What is new about the 2016 budget that will check the pitfalls of previous budgets since 1999, and will guarantee the efficiency of government spending?
In other words, is there any guarantee that under President Buhari, the efficiency of government expenditure has improved considerably and that for every one naira that is spent, at least 60k value will be realised? Changing the decadent system which President Buhari inherited and to which he has committed to revamping, is a herculean task which is not going to come easy. In spite of the campaign against corruption, corruption in Nigeria is still endemic and pervasive. Who are the perpetrators and perpetuators of corruption? As long as there is no elite consensus on the need to fight corruption, curbing corruption will be difficult. From every indication, it appears that only President Buhari is committed to fighting corruption. How many ministers have publicly declared their assets? How many governors have publicly declared their assets, etc? Fighting corruption will entail a systemic reinvigoration of the existing institutions and government agencies.
Given the foregoing background, is there any guarantee that the present attempt to partially deregulate the downstream sector of the oil industry will achieve the desired result? Yes, with deregulation, the prices of petrol may fall in future, but is there any guarantee that money saved from the subsidy removal will address the challenges of development facing the people?
The Buhari administration has taken a revolutionary step in addressing the challenges of the downstream sector of the Nigerian economy. Will the adminstration go the whole hog in addressing the challenges of the Nigerian economy by shifting its emphasis away from the prevalent culture of consumption to an investment-based and productive economy, where the few who parasite on the economy are restrained from their excesses? Will President Buhari be concerned about reducing inequality and enunciating an economic framework that will make the populace the stakeholders of the economy? What will President Buhari do to check the increasing cost of governance in which 80% of government revenues are spent on recurrent expenditure, especially on government officials? Addressing the challenges of the Nigerian economy requires revolutionary measures.

With the poverty rate of 81%, 71% illiteracy, and unemployment rate of 54.4%, Nigerians are still waiting to see what policies he will enunciate to cushion the multiplier effect of the increase in petrol. Nigerians are still waiting to see how he will control the National Assembly that is notorious for extravagance. Recently, the National Assembly was in the news again for spending N4.7 billion on luxury cars at a time that the country is broke and most states could not pay workers’ salaries. Politicians and public officials’ lifestyle are far removed from the present economic realities. Will President Buhari institute accountability and fiscal discipline frameworks for curbing waste and reckless in the management of public financial resources?
It is left for President Buhari to justify his claims to prudence and austere lifestyle on whose fulcrum he rose to power. It is one year since he assumed office; we are yet to feel the positive impact of his government.
Managing the Nigerian economy in a depression requires fiscal discipline, accountability and prudence. The President should demonstrate enough political will to show that he has come to play a mediatory role in managing the Nigerian economy. Above all, the populace needs a lifeline to cushion the effect of the recent price increase in petrol.
*Dr. Nwogbo works with the National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja

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