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New beginnings

Chioma Gabriel

Leaders in elective positions across states in Nigeria and at the national level now have yet another opportunity to prove their mettle to Nigerians. In the national level, Nigerians are battling to understand the meaning of Next Level which has just kicked off and see if it would work better than the ‘Change’ which many lamented took the last ‘change’ out of the pockets and left them poorer and many without jobs.

Analysts in their reviews noted that Nigerians got poorer in Buhari’s first term and Nigerians hoped this time will be better.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term according  to the Economist made Nigerians  poorer during his first four years in office, saying in its recent publication, which was posted on its website on Thursday that while the Nigerian economy was “stuck like a stranded truck,” average incomes fell during the four-year period covering 2015 to 2019.

According to The Economist,” Based on the thinking of the International Monetary Fund, the average income of Nigerians “will not rise for at least another six (years).

“The Nigerian economy,” it said, “is stuck like a stranded truck. Average incomes have been falling for four years; the IMF thinks they will not rise for at least another six (years).

“The latest figures put unemployment at 23 per cent, after growing for 15 consecutive quarters.

“Some 94 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, more than in any other country, and the number is swelling.

“By 2030, a quarter of very poor people will be Nigerians, predicts the World Data Lab, which counts such things.”

The report said the naira was overvalued, adding that this was because the government had spent decades neglecting basic public goods such as roads, schools and electricity.

It said, “Where urgency is needed, Buhari offers only caution. Few are holding their breath for any more drive in his second term, which began on May 29th.

“Yet officials are postponing a crisis, not averting one. The debt-to-GDP ratio is 28 per cent, but Nigeria collects so little in tax that interest payments swallow about 60 per cent of federal revenues.”

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The Economist said that public finances would be healthier if the government raised the price of fuel, which is imported by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and sold on at a loss.

It said that last year, subsidy was worth at least 0.5 per cent of the GDP, noting that this was almost what the government spent on health care.

“Politicians are scared to end the subsidy. An attempt to do so in 2012 led to massive protests.

“Although the government has expanded the school-feeding programme and is working on a safety net for the poor, most citizens get few benefits from the state,” it added.

For Nigeria to prosper, it said the government should harness the potential of its 200 million citizens.

Indeed, many Nigerians may not understand the allegory of a stranded truck but that is what an average Lagosian sees every day. Long lines of Lorries stretch like tentacles from Apapa Port towards Mile 2, towards Oshodi, Costain, Western Avenue, side streets and inside streets.

If you are working in Vanguard which main office is located in the midst of these tankers, you will understand. Many times at midnight, we have been caught in-between tankers and dangerously hanging containers for hours, looking for a way to make it back to our homes after a busy day at work and after a tortuous journey to our offices at the mercy of dangerously hanging containers and illegal aliens from Chad, Niger, Mali, Togo and other neighbouring countries who invaded Nigeria with their okada business.

Besides these, other businesses and companies in Apapa are dead and their employees dismissed.

The Economist used the truck situation on our roads to describe our economy.  The Nigerian economy is stuck like a stranded truck. Average incomes have been falling for four years; the IMF thinks they will not rise for at least another six. According to it, the latest figures put unemployment at 23%, after growing for 15 consecutive quarters. Inflation is 11%. Some 94 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, more than in any other country, and the number is swelling. By 2030, it said, a quarter of very poor people will be Nigerians, predicts the World Data Lab, which counts such things.

This did not start with Buhari however. Nigeria was already slated for all-time low when President Muhammadu Buhari took the wheel in 2015. The price of oil had crashed but Buhari’s regime made a bad situation worse.

Currently, Nigerians are holding their breath for more dives in his second term, which began on May 29th but Adeyemi Dipeolu, his economic adviser: said the Buhari regime is trying to avoid shocks, explaining that sharp currency movements or hikes in electricity tariffs would be felt by ordinary Nigerians.

Nigerians believe they are over-taxed everyday through electricity tariffs and despite the consistent hike in fuel prices, many still believe that public finances would be healthier if the government still raised the price of fuel, which is imported by the state oil company and sold on at a loss.

Many states across Nigeria are in near-comatose situation. After new governors were sworn in, many are faced with empty treasures and inculcated debts left by former regimes. No new governor has come out to say his predecessor left him a healthy treasury.

Nigerians indeed don’t know what to expect this time. But the fact remains that we all through His grace will survive. Nigerians never say die.

VANGUARD

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