Economics, Economist, Financial Times And Nigeria, By Garba Shehu

One would imagine that business papers like economic success stories; apparently not. Instead, they feast and thrive on negatives. Financial Times, for instance, is worried about a government policy that is enabling boom in rice production in Nigeria. And the Economist is panicky about toothpick manufacturers springing up following tariffs that protect local manufacturers to get off the ground and compete globally.

Both papers only see negatives. Specifically, Economist dwells on out-of-date statistics. Deliberately it turns away from the positives as it will complicate already tailored narratives. Some foreign correspondents keep the storyline simple: Africa is home for all bad things: poverty, disease and crime. And unremitting bleakness lives on the continent, and success is the aberration.

Since only negative reports on Africa make it to the international media, a backward picture of a nation is painted succinctly and efforts at growth in different ramifications, both investment and diplomacy are ignored. From the content of these stories, readers must be baffled that Nigerians know toothpicks, let alone be able to manufacture them.

The fact remains that with squeeze in media budgets there are not enough knowledgeable foreign correspondents based on the continent to report accurate news and uphold journalistic standards. And the parachuting style clearly defies ethics and quality. To cut cost, many media houses rely on the expedience of technology. The highly revered and sacrosanct fact-checking skill of journalism slips as a result. Anyone with a laptop is trusted as credible source. Cogent arguments no longer have a place, instead we have jumbled and emotive criticisms.

For instance, the Financial Times declares proudly that President Buhari failed to spur rice growing, whilst stating that production was at record levels up 60 per cent in 2018 from what we had in 2013. The Economist talks about overdependence on oil, yet criticises policies such as subsidies or financial incentives that allow local businesses to compete and diversify the economy. It frowns at power shortfalls, but turns around to attack Alhaji Aliko Dangote – the man building the world’s largest oil refinery and improving power infrastructure in Nigeria.

Fundamentally, the foreign correspondents fail to appreciate context – understandably if they have to cover a large “patch’’ with shoe-string budgets, but never-the-less it is impermissible as facts must remain sacred. The Economist states that the economy was “sputtering’’ when President Buhari’s first term began in 2015, and still concluded he made a “bad situation worse”. “Sputtering’’ sounds euphemistic. The reality is that the economy was on its knees. The overdependence on oil, paired with impending global commodity crash, made the entry into recession at the beginning of the term inevitable. Now, however, the first quarter growth of 2019 has been the strongest.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said analysts and onlookers must recognise “how deep the shock” was to the economy. As a famous American business magnate observed: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Indeed, Nigeria had been awash in oil dollars (over $100 a barrel), yet previous governments failed to add muscle to the economy.

Since the recession struck (crude oil went below $40 per barrel), the government has taken measures to redress weaknesses in our economy. The IMF goes on to praise the strong diversification in the economy and welcome the focus on public investment. For instance, the government has spent record figures on infrastructure in the past two years and capital expenditure is now around 30 per cent of the budget, rather than inadequate 10 per cent in 2015.

There has also been a drive to self-sufficiency where possible. It makes no sense for Nigeria to import rice, yet foreign shipments were dumped to maintain dependency. Farmers needed help: strategic tariffs were applied to allow for initial competition, whilst the Central Bank of Nigeria financial initiatives allowed growers to access capital for fertilizer and equipment. Over the past three years, production has risen year-on-year. Nigeria, as of 2018, is Africa’s largest producer of rice. Self-sufficiency has almost been attained.

From reading some foreign articles, you would be surprised to find these success stories mentioned; amazed that anyone would cheer the decision on tariffs to ward off desolation. And the failure to see or present any achievement perpetuates stereotypes that serve as disincentives to Foreign Direct Investment and partnership.

Granted, there are challenges in Nigeria. The country is a large and diverse nation with structural challenges that have been passed down through decades. But foreign reports ignore the complexity, and instead offer platitudes as solutions. This diminishes the difficulties facing those in governance: they must merely “stamp out corruption” or “improve governance” – common advice amongst those quick to criticise, but barren in tangible and measurable solutions.

Similarly, we are told to “harness the vim of Nigerians’’ – which is true. But this seems obvious as to even need mentioning. It is – to be sure – how you do that. We in governance have no illusion about this. Vim is harnessed when a nation has decent infrastructure that connects the economy, and thousands of miles of road have been constructed, as well as the expansion and upgrading of colonial-era railway network. When children have good education; we are currently ensuring 9 million free school meals daily across the nation and it has boosted enrolment and attendance. And when business reforms create enabling environment; already Nigeria has gone up 24 places in Ease of Doing Business ranking since 2018, and the country is currently one of the top 10 global reformers, which is good news!

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity.

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The Economist And Its Double Standard Poll Prediction, By Sunday James Akinloye

For those who take The Economist prediction as gospel, you might be in for a long haul because they do have a handful of failed poll predictions that has hurt their believers hard in times past.

In 2016, they put Hillary Clinton to the sword by falsely making her and her campaign team believe that they will win. Here’s how The Economist predicted the outcome of the 2016 election in the United States.

“Could it happen? Absolutely. But it would be a very, very big upset—about as likely as, say, the Chicago Cubs baseball team coming back from a three-games-to-one deficit to win their first World Series since 1908. So yeah, Hillary’s got this. Democrats, just ask a Cleveland Indians fan whether you have anything to worry about.”

We all know what happened at the end. Clinton lost and Trump won. The Economist misled them and billions across the world. Coming back home for a bit. In December 2018, The Economist predicted that incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari will win a second term in office and that the opposition will collapse.

The Economist in its edition, “The World in 2019” said: “The president, Muhammadu Buhari, will win re-election in February, as the new opposition coalition may collapse before the vote.

Just to state categorically, the quote from The Economist claimed two things. One is that President Buhari will be re-elected and that the opposition will collapse before the elections. One thing is clear, President Buhari is clear favourites to win if the campaign rallies across the country are anything to go by.

President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have embarked on a more proactive and people-oriented campaigns than any other party in Nigerian democratic history. The mammoth crowds at the rallies are also a confirmation that the presidential duo is loved.

Fast forward to February 2019, barely two weeks before the presidential election in Nigeria, the supposedly reputed magazine did a U-turn and claimed that the main opposition party will win.

Please stop for a minute and take a deep breath, do you expect the truth from a man who speaks from both sides of his mouth?

Little wonder, economic historian and professor of Economics, Bradford DeLong wrote this about The Economist, “As a longtime reader of The Economist, let me just say that in the past six years I have come to the conclusion that in five important issue areas–U.S. politics, U.S. economics, finance (U.S. and global), Middle Eastern politics, and African politics — anything The Economist states that I did not already know is likely to be wrong… And it’s the reason I pay much more attention these days to the Financial Times.”

In all fairness, there is nothing left of The Economist’s credibility when it comes to political calculations and predictions. Hopefully, The Economist will have the decency to apologise to Nigerians after the elections on 16 February.

Akinloye is President of Initiative to Save Democracy. He is a social commentator and political analyst

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President Buhari Will Win 2019 Election – The Economist

The Economist has reported that President Muhammadu Buhari will win the 2019 presidential election. It also predicted that the opposition coalition may collapse before the general election.

According to The Economist in its latest edition, “The World in 2019”, there is little hope that Islamist insurgency in the Northeast will end.

In a country appraisal for Nigeria under “The world in numbers”, the magazine said:  “The president, Muhammadu Buhari, will win re-election in February, as a new opposition coalition may collapse before the vote.

“Given the outlook for continuing political weakness, there is little prospect of progress in the fight against the Islamist insurgency in the north, nationalism in the oil-producing Delta and secessionism in the Biafra region.

“Market-based reforms will languish, holding back growth yet again.”

The magazine’s other predictions for Nigeria are: GDP growth (1.9%); GDP per head-$2, 410(PPP: $6,020); inflation (13.6%); Budget balance (5GDP) is -2.0 and population (201.0m).

In a separate report, the Foreign Correspondent of The Economist, Aman Rizvi, distanced himself from the official position of his magazine.

He said the election will be close, with the PDP having a slight edge.

Rizvi said: “Mr. Buhari’s approval ratings have languished below 50 % for most of 2018. Ominously, he has been hit by a wave of defections to the PDP.

“Desertions to the APC four years ago, by many of the same people, felled ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

“Mr. Buhari’s electoral opponent in 2019, Atiku Abubakar, is one such double-turncoat. He is also a septuagenarian, billionaire businessman, former vice president and three-time presidential aspirant.

“With Mr. Abubakar distrusted for his wealth and opportunism, the election will be close. Its outcome will hinge on who arouses less apathy.

“So, who will win? Many Nigerians do not care. The back-and-forth floor-crossing has convinced them that the same people will be in charge either way. The PDP holds a slight edge, if only because expectations for Mr. Buhari were higher and his failure to meet them was more recent.”

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Your Prediction Is Noxious, BMO Tells “The Economist”

The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has described the Economist Magazine prediction of the outcome of the 2019 Presidential Election as unintelligent, noxious and alien as it has no basis in reality.

The Magazine had predicted that the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDPD), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar would defeat the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 16, 2019 election.

According to This Day Newspaper, the Economic Intelligent Unit (EIU) of the magazine expects that the next government “will be led by the PDP, although the administration will be fragile”.

In its reaction, BMO said that the prediction lacks empirical evidence and methodological credibility, and it is coming from a magazine that has a record of inaccurate predictions.

 In a statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Niyi Akinsiju and Cassidy Madueke respectively, BMO said” “This is a prediction that will fail just as the same Economist Magazine’s failed when it said in its prediction that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donal Trump in the United States presidential election”.

“This Economist Magazine gamble is noxious, unintelligent, prurient and alien. It is fiction masquerading as facts and a nullity. To start with, the Magazine failed on how it arrived at this dubious conclusion. It also shows that the EIU and its task masters have a predetermined objective without taking into cognisance the realities on the ground”

BMO is of the opinion that virtually all the basis of assumptions by the Magazine are completely off the mark: “For instance, how can any intelligent person predict that the southern part of Nigeria would vote for Atiku when evidence on ground indicates huge support for Buhari”

“Also President Buhari’s achievements all over the nation and dividends of democracy to millions of Nigerians has put him in ase vantage position over every and other presidential candidates. Its social investments programmes, massive infrastructural development and agricultural revolution and diversification of the economy speak volume of president Bihari’s ability and successes in governance.”

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The Economist Disowns Fake Publication Against President Buhari

The Economist, a London-based magazine, has disowned a publication which claims that Nigerians have shown unprecedented level of patience with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The publication has been making rounds on the social media and on some websites in the country, and beyond.

A letter dated January 18, 2018, written and signed by the Africa Editor of the magazine, Jonathan Rosenthal, reads:

“It has come to my attention that an article has been circulating on social media and been published on various websites that purports to have been written or published by The Economist.

“The article with the headline ‘The Unprecedented Level of Patience Shown to Buhari’ was not written nor published by The Economist. Any claims connecting it to The Economist are false.”

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