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TOWARDS NATIONAL DEVT: Economic and political imperatives

THE past weeks have witnessed the presentation of the Budget by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly, and also the successful conduct of the Ondo State gubernatorial election. Therefore, it is necessary to congratulate the President on submitting the budget on time and also, for the display of sportsmanship in congratulating the people of Ondo State for rejecting his party (PDP) and for choosing a performing governor for the second time.

The President has been able to perform a difficult task of consoling his own party members in Edo and Ondo states for the sunset of a once glorious party.  Perhaps, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not dead in the two progressive states, but rather taking a necessary rest, to be prepared for the golden morn.

Some vital factors in the ‘public‘ disaffection or lack of trust in the government’s performance have been attributed to apparent failures of its economic and political policies.

Many analysts have attributed failures of governments to the inability to profit from the execution of some of their progressive policies.  It has been observed that many good policies of various governments in the country have either been poorly executed or when fairly executed, have suffered under poor communication.

At times, poor or lack of effective communication has been responsible for lack of trust between the government and the governed.  Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for the government to feel the pulse of the people in the planning and execution of its policies.

A visionary leader may be expected to pick holes if necessary in the execution of a policy if and when necessary.  The Edo and Ondo elections have been judged to be free and fair but not without the usual incidents of improper conduct by the voters in the exercise of their civil rights and also, the officials of the INEC in the execution of their duties.

President Goodluck Jonathan

As there were cases of voters cheating, there were also stories of ballot materials not reaching their destinations on time.  The human behavior (not animal) of the electorate could not be separated from the heavy presence of security forces.

It was reported that about 11,000 police personnel were deployed to Ondo State during the elections.  The question to be asked is whether any election is free with such heavy appearance of security forces.    It may be averred that something is wrong with an electoral process, which requires the presence of heavy security forces to conduct an election.

One point which should not escape the mind of a good leader and the progressive elements in Nigeria is the apparent lethargy of registered voters to any election.

During the last election in Ondo State, it was discovered that the far less the number of registered voters participated in that election.

The result also showed that the victorious party scored less than the combined votes of the opposition.  For example, Labour Party scored 260,199 votes;  PDP scored 155,961 while ACN scored 143,512 votes.  The implication is that if this were interpreted into legislative seats, the Labour Party would thus constitute a minority government.  To me, the message is clear.  Nigerians are tired of party politics and would prefer a form of participation by all in the construction of a good government.

Under the present system, the winner with the largest votes forms the government under the principle of”winners-take-all”.  This calls into question the rationale of a party endorsed by less than 10 per cent of the entire population, and less than 50 per cent of the eligible voters exercising political power over a population of about 2million people.

The Uwais Commission recommended proportional representation in its report which would mean that the formation of any government would depend on the votes recorded by the participating parties in the elections.

Many stable countries in Europe are listening to the dictates of their voters in respect of administration by a single party with the mentality of the “winners-take-all”.  In the last election in Britain, no single party won an overall majority in the British Parliament and therefore, there is now a coalition of parties (Tory and Liberal Democrats) ruling Britain. while in Germany, the present Chancellor heads the government formed by many parties.

What Nigerians are saying by their votes is that the single party rule is anomalous and that the principle of “winners-take-all” may not work for political stability.  The same argument goes for the Federal Government which is headed by the President (a member of a single political party (PDP) who scored about 22 million votes (Presidential election).

The implication of past electoral events is the call for a fresh look at the Uwais Report on electoral matters, for political stability of the country.  This will include the right of the Independent Candidate which was denied in the present Constitution by the past Military political there could be no political stability without its complement, economic stability. There is no doubt that the present Federal Government under Dr. Ebele Jonathan has been trying to make an impact on micro-economic equilibrium.

The effect so far has yielded fruits of seemingly stable economic condition, but with large dose of unemployment.  At present, oil production is estimated at 2.5 million barrels per day; inflation rate at about 11.3  per cent ; GDP at about 6.68 per cent; Foreign Exchange reserves, at about $40 billion.

However, unemployment rate is between 25 per cent – 30 per cent (in advanced countries, an unemployment rate of over 3 per cent is not tolerated).  President Obama of USA is facing problems of re-election because of unemployment rate of over 10 per cent.

In Nigeria, the monetary policy rate is 12 per cent while the deposit  banks‘ lending rate is about 21 per cent.  Many in official quarters feel comfortable with the economy which is stable under this condition (with a foreign exchange rate of N156/$).  Many Nigerians feel that such an economy may not be beneficial for industrial growth and future prosperity.

The official stance on curbing inflation through the monetary policy of the Central Bank has proved to be illusionary, and has led to a condition of paper growth with high unemployment.  The country has not gained or taken any advantage from the forced devaluation of the naira.

The country has also failed to experiment the regime of a low interest rate as being practised in many economically advanced countries.  In Britain in the past, a low interest rate regime encouraged capital investments in rail-road improvements and the development of electrical supply; but its cheap effect was to stimulate an outburst of buildings and slum clearance.

There were investments in manufacturing plants which led to increase in consumers‘ demand and employment.  Another innovation in the past is the budget deficit concept which was successfully used in USA by President Roosevelt to achieve infrastructural developments, and reduce poverty.

Perhaps instead of unnecessary arguments on 2012 budget, the President would send a bill to the National Assembly to use all unspent amounts in the 2012 budget to fix our roads (between now and the end of the year) as Christmas and New Year gift to all Nigerians.

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