Why Ideology Need Not Trample On Economics, By Nasiru Suwaid
This week, like many others living within the sphere of economic policy engagement in the society, it is a time of excitement about the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Not because of the likely concessionary loan that would be obtained by Nigeria, not because of the financial foresight of being indebted, in a lesser in value Chinese Yuan as against the much higher in value United States Dollar, in terms of the expected responsibility of a less stressful repayment requirement. Not because, Nigeria is going to become a clearing house for Yuan denominated financial transactions in Africa, thus, directly reducing the strengthening pressure on the Dollar and weakening depreciation of the naira in forex transactions.
Indeed, not because of its acknowledged history of expertise in infrastructural development, not because of the fact, Nigeria is issuing Panda bonds on the Chinese market, as one of the most exciting places on earth for financial investment, thus guaranteeing optimum subscription. After all, because of its trade surplus, it is the only economy in this world, which holds more United States Dollars outside the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB).
But, because of the fact, Nigeria has began to master the art of economic diplomacy, not in a belligerent posture to spite one against the other, like fitting East against the West, the way General Sani Abacha administration did it or in a new policy of preferring China despite initially having a relationship with United States of America (USA), as a protest on the presumption of cooperation not given, like it happened in the immediate past democratic regime.
Rather, it is the presentation of Nigeria in a new multi-polar world, where ideological leaning hardly matters in economic policy management, thus you would have a communist China, ruled by people’s committees, implementing pure capitalist free market policies, while the capitalist United States of America, resort to communist tactics of pure capital control or protectionist measures, when a very democratic president of America, would circumvent the congress, by issuing an executive order in the form of; Presidential Directive Against The Corporate Inversion Tax Loophole.
In fact, right now, it is only within the academic institutions environment, being a Marxist or being a proponent of Adam Smith meant anything, but for economic policy initiators, burdened with the need to create economic growth and development, what matters is what works. Unfortunately, for a section of the Nigerian financial press, spearheaded by the Business Day Newspaper, it seems they are still living in the past, where every economic policy of the government is viewed from the prism of the ideological leaning of its initiator, thus, every economic action of President Muhammadu Buhari is understood and explained from socialist orientation.
Indeed, it would surprise me the least, if the current Buhari’s visit to China is presented from this angle, however, the more constructive approach to dealing with this government, should have been to examine every policy pronouncement and measure from the prism of national interest only. Whether such policy would be good or bad for the nation and where there is a difference in opinion, it is only superior argument that should prevail and gain ascendancy, though, not countermanding that public discussion etiquette of agreeing to disagree.
And this two other things:
WHAT IS IN A NAME
Nigerians, as Africans, who mostly believe in the cultural lore of the continent and generally, worship the traditional religion and the two monolithic faiths, attach special significance to names, either of a human being, an activity, trade or a place of abode, be it a town, city or even a country, a good name reflecting positivity, while a bad name imputing evil on who is so named. It is within this context, that I examine the word ‘informal’ in economic terms and ‘non-formal’ in knowledge acquisition realm, basically, within the educational sector, it connotes the pursuit of knowledge, without a set of established and certified curriculum, thus, no father or guardian, wishes to see a dependant engage in it and to acquire that type of education, that is if it is even seen as such.
However, it is within the Economics sphere of knowledge, the word constitute a developmental problem, because, despite the fact of the word or name ‘informal’ connoting negativity, in many a statistical data, an economic report or a developmental projection, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) or entrepreneurship are placed under the informal sector sub-heading, thus, imputing that they are ‘seen’ as outside the economy, they are also, mostly not captured in tax collection and usually dealt with by the government, as trades that serve as avenues for getting citizens out of poverty only and populated, by individuals considered as never do well in life..
In fact, as a consequent stereotypical example, an anecdote was related about the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, a president who had often stated: “advisers are there to advice” but he doesn’t need their advices, in his relationship with his Chief Economic Adviser, Dr. Magnus Kpakol [2001-2003], who continued nagging him on the eminent significance of small business on the promotion of national entrepreneurship and wealth creation. Thus, when the time for cabinet reshuffle came, Obasanjo posted him as Senior Special Assistant on National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) [2003-2011]. Indeed, it was Magnus Kpakol who introduced into the Nigeria linguistic lexicon, Keke-Napep, a tricycle given as loans to low income earners, as a means of creating employment.
Now, try to picture small entrepreneurs in developed economies of the world, they are mostly called start-ups, seen not as avenues for fighting poverty only, but, as a means for creating wealth, not necessarily to remain small only, but, could become giant conglomerates. It is within this belief and thinking, they are assisted with cheap credit, provided with infrastructural operating environment, accommodated as part of the economy, encouraged to grow so that they could create employment and because of the positive name, seen as investor’s dream to engage in the small business, because, only hard work and destiny, determines what it would become.
THANK YOU OKONJO-IWEALA FOR ALSO LAMENTING
Maybe, this is a season of open lamentation, thus, when the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) administration publicly complained, on what did not happen in the past government, economic policy wise, it is a legitimate exercise on deepening engagement in democratic discourse and accountability in governance. Perhaps, it is in this spirit, last week, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and head of the economic management team in the immediate past government, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala openly lamented, on what happened in her tenure of office, where she told the widely read French newspaper, Le Monde, how the oil subsidy cabal, had engineered the kidnapping of her mother.
Just because, she had urged President Goodluck Jonathan, to remove the near $7 billion dollar subsidy, as about $1.5 billion dollar in the amount, stood as a leakage into the personal profit and corrupt bank accounts of the notorious cabals. However, these is not what captured my attention in the interview, it is when she complained about being accused, as the head of the economic team, on why the administration never saved nor invested the windfall in oil revenue proceeds, asserting how it is the same governors then, who are now senators and ministers in the new ruling party and government, that undermined her attempt and effort to save for the rainy day, a time of low oil revenue just like now.
Seeing the argument at first glimpse, she has to be right, however, looking at the presentation, with a little deeper foresight, raises the question, how could a federal government, ‘singlehandedly’ operate an Excess Crude Account, when it is jointly owned by both states and the federal government. How can a federal government, ‘unilaterally’ set-up a Sovereign Wealth Fund, with money belonging to the two tiers of government and later call on the states to accept it as a fait accompli.
Obviously, this is neither a recipe for constructive engagement nor an indices for positive cooperation in the economic management of a national economy, but why is this important now, very simple, to learn from Ngozi’s policy failures, in managing the Nigerian economy, so that it should not be Osinbajo’s portion and as the wise saying goes; we learn from our predecessors mistakes, so that we shall not repeat them.
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