The Pains and Anguish of Economic Recession
Constitutional experts and political scientists all over the world agree that the primary purpose of governance is the security and welfare of the citizens. That is why the writers of the 1999 constitution also included that in that fundamental law that governs the operations of our representative government. Even the defunct Soviet Union in its constitution stated that the employment of every citizen ought to be the business of government. It is rather unfortunate that the year 2016 will go down in living memory as one of dashed hopes and that majority of Nigerians were in the valley of pains and agonies, no thanks to the biting economic recession brought about partly by the Jonathan administration and the Buhari administration drifting economic policy.
True that in 2014, Nigeria was rated as the strongest economy in Africa with a GDP of 568 dollars but today the picture is that of a GDP of 481 dollars. Economists are saying that some of the causes for this economic downturn are the crashing prices of crude oil, the bombing by the Niger Delta militants of pipelines and oil installations, the single treasury account, fall of the Naira, the unbridled consuming patterns of Nigerians that depend on importation of things ranging from toothpick to pencils and the unfavourable policy towards dollars and those with domiciliary accounts. The truth of the matter is that perhaps the Buhari administration was not prepared for governance and not even ready to listen to economic experts to take the economy out of the woods.
And the gloomy picture of the economy was recently painted by the National Bureau of Statistics. According to the bureau, inflation in the country is driven by higher food, petrol and electricity prices. The bureau also held the CBN responsible for economic woes of Nigerians by letting the Naira to float, causing sharp decline in the currency against the dollar and pushing up prices of the imported food.
The National Bureau of Statistics puts the issue in this manner: `The Consumer Price Index which measures inflation increased by 18.48 per cent (year –in- year) in November 2016, 0.15 percentage points higher than the rate recorded in October (18.33)...... During the month, the highest increases were seen in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels, clothing, books, Liquid fuel, passenger transport by air, motor cycles and shoes and other footwear`.
The translation of this message is that more Nigerians are going to bed hungry, people dying of preventable diseases because they do not have money to buy medicine, children been sent from schools because of the inability of their parents to pay fees and other economic hardship. At the state government level, salaries are being owed for months and the federal government had to give out bailout funds to such defaulting states. The case of local government workers is very pitiable as the workers are owed salaries running into several months. And when you remember the plight of pensioners, these senior citizens that used their salad years in the service of motherland, the thought that comes to mind is that there is simply unthinking and insensitive government in place.
Yet the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun is living in denial that there is nothing like recession in the country. This is the sentiment of the Finance Minister about the current state of the economy :`We are already out of recession because of the actions the federal government is taking.... the government is investing more in capital that we have ever invested, we are stopping wastage and so the sign of recovery is already here. Agriculture and solid minerals are already starting to grow and so they are responding to our policy initiative and we are expected to continue in that direction. Nigeria is getting out of the trouble that we have found ourselves, we are turning things around and I believe everybody is united and everybody that were here represented the 36 states`.
The sentiment of the minister is far from a near truth and a poor advertisement for the government of lack of policy direction in the economy. Both the CBN and the opposition PDP have different views. That of the CBN which is supposed to be the bank for the government and major policy economic formulator is the best affirmation yet that the Buhari administration is just digging hole to cover another hole.
This is how the CBN sees the economy and why we are in the present predicament; ‘The federal government indebtedness to the domestic economy was crippling economic activities and threatening the health the nation`s financial system`. The CBN went ahead to advise the government and it seems those in authority are wearing plastic ears. Hear CBN counsels: `that government urgently assess the extent of its indebtedness to domestic economic agents and develop a framework for securitising the debts in order to settle its outstanding contractual obligations which cut across all sectors of the economy`. Therefore it could be safely deduced that with the Minister of Finance and the CBN having contradictory views on how to run the economy, it would be a miracle if the year 2017 shall be better than 2016.
Predictably, the PDP, the main opposition party is exploiting the inefficiency of the government and that the blame game of the APC against the Jonathan administration is no longer fashionable. In a statement issued by Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the spokesman for the national caretaker committee of the party took the government and the Finance Minister to the cleaners. This is the political salvo of Adeyeye: `The view of Kemi Adeosun that recession is a ``word`` is an insult on Nigerians. Is this statement as a result of ignorance, lack of patriotism or in line with President Buhari`s comment that his ministers are noise makers. For the record, recession is characterised as a period of negative economic growth for two consecutive quarters, given rise to high rate of unemployment, fall in output, and increase in government borrowing. Following this understanding, Nigeria`s economy is already near depression. The crass ineptitude and lukewarm attitude of this All Progressive Congress government is no longer tolerable, and therefore, we are calling on President Buhari and his team to return Nigeria to its state of booming economy before they assumed office in May 2015 and then quit immediately to allow other capable leaders recover our ailing economy`.
In midst of the mudslinging between the APC and PDP as to who should be blamed for the economic crisis, Nigerians are dying, businesses are folding up and some gullible Nigerians had fallen for the MMM scheme that promised 30 per cent interest within a period of thirty days. Many Nigerians shall experience a gloomy Christmas as their purchasing power is very low and the naira is in a free fall against the dollar. Today a dollar will fetch you four hundred and seven naira. That is why the blame game must stop and the Buhari administration should take the counsel of two principal members of the administration. Speaking recently, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo lamented that the proposed N7.29 trillion 2017 budget might not be enough to remove the economy out of stagflation. On the other hand, the senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki while receiving the budget estimates from Buhari reminded the president that there was suffering in the land.
The ball is now in the court of the president and his economic team to think outside the box and invent economic strategies that would remove the economy out of the woods and make things work for the betterment of suffering masses struggling to put food on their table. If a government cannot solve the economic needs of the people, cannot establish fertile environment that will make the private sector to flourish, then such government is going against one of the cardinal principles of governance which is the welfare of the people. As it stands today, the economic policies (if any) of Buhari administration is strangulating growth and development. This version of `change` is the least Nigerians expected of him.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392