Jonathan “An Ineffectual Buffoon”- The Economist…Says Buhari Repeating 1984 Error
United Kingdom based finance publication, The Economist, has described former President Goodluck Jonathan as an ‘ineffectual buffoon’.
The paper stated this in its January 30 publication titled ‘Crude Tactics’, where it lamented that the plunging price of crude is causing a currency crisis in the country.
While attempting to analyse the crisis oil price has brought to the Nigerian economy and the efforts of the current government to respond to the crisis, the paper painted a picture of the massive corruption that went on during the Jonathan administration.
In the eight months since Mr Buhari arrived at Aso Rock, the presidential digs, the homicidal jihadists of Boko Haram have been pushed back into the bush along Nigeria’s borders. The government has cracked down on corruption, which had flourished under the previous president, Goodluck Jonathan, an ineffectual buffoon who let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity. Lai Mohammed, a minister, reckons that just 55 people stole $6.8 billion from the public purse over seven recent years.
It accused Jonathan’s cronies of squandering income generated from oil which would have served as buffers to cushion against the shocks of current oil revenue which has dropped below $32 a barrel, a figure less nearly 30 percent less of what was obtainable within the same period in 2015 under the Jonathan administration.
“Oil’s price has fallen by half, to $32 a barrel, in the months since the new government came to power, sending its revenues plummeting. Income for the third quarter of 2015 was almost 30% lower than for the same period the year before, and foreign reserves have dwindled by $9 billion in 18 months. Ordinarily there would be buffers to cushion against such shocks, but Mr Jonathan’s cronies have largely squandered them. Growth was about 3% in 2015, almost half the rate of the year before and barely enough to keep pace with the population. The stockmarket is down by half from its peak in 2014.”
But while it praised Buhari’s economic direction as one in the right step especially with an expansionary budget that will stimulate the economy; the plans to save some $5 billion-$7 billion a year by ending fuel subsidies and blockage of leakages from official theft, it criticised the president for refusing to further devalue the naira.
In another publication titled ‘Hope the naira falls’, the paper said “President Muhammadu Buhari is repeating an economic error he made as dictator 30 years ago”
“Instead of letting the naira depreciate to reflect the country’s loss of purchasing power, Mr Buhari’s government is trying to keep it aloft. The central bank has restricted the supply of dollars and banned the import of a long list of goods, from shovels and rice to toothpicks. It hopes that this will maintain reserves and stimulate domestic production.”
“When the currency is devalued, all imports become more expensive. But under Mr Buhari’s system the restrictions on imports are by government fiat. Factory bosses complain they cannot import raw materials such as chemicals and fret that, if this continues, they may have to shut down. Many have turned to the black market to obtain dollars, and are doubtless smuggling in some of the goods that have been banned.”
“Nigerians have heard this tune before. Indeed, Mr Buhari tried something similar the last time he was president. Then, as now, he resisted what he called the “bitter pill” of devaluation. When, as a result, foreign currency ran short, he rationed it and slashed imports by more than half. When Nigerians turned to the black market he sealed the country’s borders. When unemployment surged he expelled 700,000 migrants.”
“Barking orders at markets did not work then, and it will not work now. Mr Buhari is right that devaluation will lead to inflation—as it has in other commodity exporters. But Nigeria’s policy of limiting imports and creating scarcity will be even more inflationary. A weaker currency would spur domestic production more than import bans can and, in the long run, hurt consumers less. The country needs foreign capital to finance its deficits but, under today’s policies, it will struggle to get any. Foreign investors assume that any Nigerian asset they buy in naira now will cost less later, after the currency has devalued. So they wait.”
“Mr Buhari’s tenure has in some ways been impressive. He has restored a semblance of security to swathes of northern Nigeria that were overrun by schoolgirl-abducting jihadists. He has won some early battles against corruption. Some of his economic policies are sound, too. He has indicated that he will stop subsidising fuel and selling it at below-market prices. This is brave, since the subsidies are popular, even though they have been a disaster (the cheap fuel was often sold abroad and petrol stations frequently ran dry). If Mr Buhari can find the courage to let fuel cost what the market says it should, why not the currency, too? You can forgive the general for being unlucky; but not for failing to learn from past mistakes”