An Economic Manifesto
I am writing this piece as an optimistic Nigerian who believes in reality and reasoning. Whatever you are about to read is based on my observations since 2010 after the economic crisis. The aim of this article is to identify Nigeria's economic and strategic potentials as a nation and to suggest what must be done to sustain it.
MINT by Jim O'neil
In 2001 the world began talking about the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - as potential powerhouses of the world economy. The term was coined by economist Jim O'Neill, who has now identified the "MINT" countries - Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey - as emerging economic giants.
Fact: Nigeria has been growing at 7% with zero power supply and In terms of GDP ranking by IMF, World bank and CIA Nigeria is usually ranked as 37th largest economy in the world .It is projected that Nigeria could grow at 10-12% by sorting out this problem alone. That would double the size of its economy in six or seven years.
Corruption and Political unrest
So much emphasis has been laid on corruption and political unrest in Nigeria. The truth remains, there is no country in the world that doesn't have political and social problems. India for instance has border tensions with Pakistan and China, two super world nuclear powers. It even has an internal conflict in the Kashmir region. South Korea shares a border with North Korea, a nuclear power and its border with North Korea houses the highest de-militarised border in the world with close to two million ever ready combat soldiers. America has problems and is even constantly at war with Al Qaeda. Britain is struggling with a secession vote by Scotland to be held in 2014. China has internal domestic conflicts including unrest in Tibet and other regions as well. It also has border conflict with Japan and some other Asian countries. Israel is surrounded by hostile enemies, some of whom don't even believe in their existence. Nigeria's political unrest in the North is not an excuse for underdevelopment. We even share a similar history with America in fighting respective civil wars .There is no excuse for not being great.
Similarly, problems of corruption abound everywhere .In China, December 2013 saw more than 500 municipal lawmakers in one Chinese province stand down following an electoral fraud scandal, according to state media. In turkey, 2013 corruption scandal saw an ongoing criminal investigation that involves several key people in the Turkish government; most people involved being members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
So please let us not beg the questions of corruption and political unrest.170 million people is bigger than one corrupt individual and far much bigger than thousands planning political instability. If we get the economy right, the mercenary for tackling corruption and political unrest will naturally evolve.
Economy is the Substructure
According to Karl Marx, the economic substructure is the defining structure of a society. The economic and material relationships formed and maintained in the substructure are what shape the superstructure, or the “secondary and dependent set of institutions and ideas”. The superstructure, then, is comprised of society's most basic institutions such as government, religion, and education.
Now this is true in every ramification. When you are poor, you don't worry about security, protection, government, accountability et cetera, but a rich man has all these to worry about, because he has the means and the need to do so because these things affect him directly. If Nigeria gets our economy right, underdevelopment, corruption and political unrest will be a thing of the past. The society will absolve and deal with them. This is why this subject matter is very important as all other problems facing us rest on it.
Leadership by Technocrats without sentiments
This is another grey area that requires serious attention. Firstly, when the head is bad, it affects the entire body. To advance into an economic revolution, a government headed by technocrats is inevitable. A good example is India, which share a similar productive economy with Nigeria. Manmohan Singh (born 26 September 1932) is the 13th and current Prime Minister of India. A renowned economist, he is the only Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to return to power after completing a full five-year term, and the first Sikh to hold the office. Born in Gah (now in Punjab, Pakistan), Singh's family migrated to India during its partition in 1947. After obtaining his doctorate in economics from Oxford, Singh worked for the United Nations in 1966–69. He subsequently began his bureaucratic career when Lalit Narayan Mishra hired him as an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Over the 70s and 80s, Singh held several key posts in the Government of India, such as Chief Economic Advisor (1972–76), Reserve Bank governor (1982–85) and Planning Commission head (1985–87).
In 1991, as India faced a severe economic crisis, newly elected Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao surprisingly inducted the apolitical Singh into his cabinet as Finance Minister. Over the next few years, despite strong opposition, he as a Finance Minister carried out several structural reforms that liberalised India's economy. Although these measures proved successful in averting the crisis, and enhanced Singh's reputation globally as a leading reform-minded economist, the incumbent Congress party fared poorly in the 1996 general election. Subsequently, Singh served as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of India's Parliament) during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government of 1998–2004.
In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, its chairperson Sonia Gandhi unexpectedly relinquished the premiership to Manmohan Singh. This Singh-led "UPA I" government executed several key legislations and projects, including the Rural Health Mission, Unique Identification Authority, Rural Employment Guarantee scheme and Right to Information Act. Although India's economy grew rapidly under UPA, its security was threatened by several terrorist incidents (including the 2008 Mumbai attacks) and the continuing Maoist insurgency.
Lessons from Singh for Nigeria...He was the first Sikh president and most importantly a technocrat. India is made up of about 80% of Hindus and about 1.9% of Sikhs. India is a highly polarised and traditional society. If India can do it why not Nigeria? India looked at need not tribe, interest not ethnicity, success not religion. When leaders are being selected, people should focus on competency not sentiments. In choosing leadership common interest should be the canter piece of our policy.
Research, Innovation and Technology
The place of research, innovation and technology can never be overemphasised. The worst thing in life is to be dragged from riches to rags. To avoid this, a society must continually engage in research, innovation and technology. It must develop a system where it has to appraise itself and advance new innovation and technology. This gives it comparative advantage over other nations. Every nation who hopes to be great must be ready to fund research to ensure continuity and development. Nigeria should think Biotechnology, Information technology, Legal research, Military technology, Nuclear energy, Space exploration, et cetera.
Facts: In the world ranking of universities, American universities constitute about 7 out of the 10 best universities in the world.
Population and Productivity A country's economy is determined by the number of people and how productive they are. Nigeria has 170 million people and is the most populated country in Africa. UN predicts that Nigeria in particular will be at the forefront of huge global population rise over next century. Nigeria's population is expected to surpass that of the US by 2050.
One thing is having population; another thing is people being productive. There are two ways that you can grow your economy. You can either increase your (working-age) population or increase your productivity. That's it. There is no magic formula for an economy to grow. To increase GDP you actually have to produce something. That's why it's called gross domestic product.
Nigeria, according to statistics is not lagging in this direction. Again to understand how productive people are in Nigeria, you need to be on ground. From my experience of Nigeria, our people are very hardworking, innovative and productive. In fact, productivity is inherent in our culture. I need not say more than to add that the people need government empowerment to enhance productivity. This is an area that needs improvement. Get this right, we increase our GDP.
Finally, We should equally think of a diversified economy. It is good to note that a country is deemed sufficiently rich when its major source of income contributes less than 10% of its entire GDP.
First fool they say is no fool, but second fool is the proper foolish man. In the 1970s, Nigeria had an oil boom with some other countries like Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia Venezuela. Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, to mention but a few. Today, their economic statistics, and level of advancement when compared to Nigeria speak for themselves.
We have another opportunity with the MINT forecast and we have to get it right.
These steps are simple and I honestly believe it can be achieved if we get our priorities right. viz,
· focus on economy,
· leadership by technocrats,
· empower population,
· encourage education research and technology
· Think interest and not tribalism or sentiments.
· Corruption and political unrest is no excuse for development.
· Diversify economy
I am not an economist, neither do I have the necessary economic calculations and formulae. Now is the time to avoid distractions and look to our finance ministers, Central bank, financial institutions, Economists and people concerned for the right answers to this clarion call.