BY EBELE ORAKPO
“Please spare us all the balderdash. Every day, they keep reeling out figures they manufactured to deceive us; all words and no tangible action,” hissed Joe, a commuter in the CMS-bound bus as a radio presenter said that Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had projected 6.75 per cent growth for the economy in 2014.
“Growth indeed! We are regressing not growing. They are just making a lot of noise. No jobs, no infrastructure, education, health, manufacturing and other sectors are in a shambles. So they should just stop deceiving us,” said Ken.
“Actually, they may not be lying to us. The fact that the growth is not reflecting on the man on the street does not mean it is false. You see, the fact that you are unable to listen to Radio Nigeria in your home does not mean that the station is not transmitting. It is left for you to tune in properly to the correct wavelength. Recently, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, predicted a 7.3 per cent economic growth for Nigeria in 2014, which is higher than what the Minister projected,” said Iyke.
“You are sounding like a Bretton Woods institutions’ agent. We are tired of theories, we need practicals now. They are telling us they will create 10 million jobs in 2014. They are sounding like those Nigerian politicians of the ‘70s/’80s who promised the electorate free wives, free food, and free everything; all lies!” said Nike.
Explained Iyke: “As I understand it, our problem is the mono economy we run and unless we diversify, we will continue to experience economic growth without commensurate impact on the people. Our economy depends almost totally on oil and that cannot make us rich because although it is our biggest foreign exchange earner, it contributes only 15 per cent of our GDP while agriculture contributes 70 per cent so if we develop agriculture, we have a chance of reaching as much as 70 per cent of the population.
When we talk of economic growth, we can at the same time talk about development because the economic growth based on agriculture reaches as much as 70 per cent of the people. The reason why our continued economic growth over the past 10 years has not reflected on our GDP is because oil influence on the GDP is just 15 per cent.”
“But it is actually possible to create 10 million jobs in 2014 if we take our eyes off oil and face other sectors, especially agriculture and industry. Nigerians are very enterprising. All they need from government at all levels is a conducive environment for them to unleash their creative potentials and make Nigeria great,” said Nike.
“Exactly! Most of these things we import into Nigeria can be made here but electricity is a big issue. If that one is tackled, the private sector will be able to create millions of jobs within a short time and get the youths fully engaged, thereby reducing crime,” agreed Iyke.
“The Energy Commission recently said that it will cost about N200m to build a small hydro dam for a community that has a stream. So why can’t local governments use part of their monthly allocations to install such hydro dams in their communities?” asked Ken.
“Local governments to embark on energy projects to benefit the masses? Are you joking? Ha! They are there for themselves and their families. How many times do you see them at work? They only go to collect the allocation and share. The people need to start asking questions, start putting pressure on these leaders; find out exactly how much they receive on their behalf and what they do with it. I bet you, things will change for the better,” noted Joe.