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Time for a one-handed economist

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economy

By Sunny Ikhioya

THE title of this piece is not original to me. Years ago, it was in a situation, such as now, I think, during the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, debate under the General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime that Ray Ekpu, in his column in the Sunday Times, titled a piece: “Wanted the one handed economist”.

Economics is considered a science because it uses the methodology of science to arrive at its conclusions: empirical, feeling, tasting, hearing, seeing, smelling to analyse, via hypothesis and theories. In science, when a conclusion is reached, it is the same everywhere, not subject to controversies. But economists have found a way to beat all of that.

They will tell you, on the one hand or on the other hand and go further to say: “if everything remains the same”, which makes the whole thing to be confusing.

You are going further into debts and somebody is telling you that it is okay to borrow since the debt is still below a certain level of our gross domestic product, GDP. Meanwhile, the servicing of the debts takes a very significant portion of our budget.

According to reports, “in the 2020 budget, the overall deficit is 2.175 trillion. This means the 2020 budget deficit is largely due to debt service payment as it gulps 23.1percent of Nigeria’s budget.”

What a contradictory scenario! And that is why, like Ray Ekpu, we require a one- handed economist at this period of our nation’s history.

Vanguard of March 28, 2020 reported that “the Minister of Finance, Budget  and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, has warned that the Nigerian economy may slide into recession if the Coronavirus continues for the next six months”.

The need for a one-sided economist is very crucial because the debate on the way forward will soon begin and our professors and learned men will never agree on a common path that will take us to the Eldorado that we all are craving for.

My reason for this is that he once said that he does not understand how the fuel subsidy thing came about, having served as petroleum minister in the past, in a country where crude oil is produced.

Ironically, his government has supervised the biggest subsidy regime in our history, coupled with the highest fuel price increase. The experts have got him so confused that now he could only nod to their requests.

So, our economy now is in a tango, you are either on one side or on the other. And while this tango is going on, things remain as they are, stagnant in a state of motion without movement, and it drags on.  It continues to drag on because on each side of the divide, people are waiting to pounce on the reward; so it is a very serious struggle amongst interest groups, each giving very good reasons why its position should  be accepted.

That is why this piece is advocating for a one sided economist, to take charge of the nation’s economy in these trying times.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Customs boss approves release of rice, other items worth N3.2bn

What we need is an economist who will not use the other hand as excuse for his failure; it does not call for confusion, it requires focus, alertness, will, openness and great intellectual capabilities.

As it is now, we are neither here nor there. If America sneezes, we run after them; China coughs and we get shaken and when Europe snores, we snore with them; that is our situation. We are ruled by the dictates of the World bank, IMF and other such foreign agencies; but we have our own ADB, let us use that to our advantage.

It is important that we have a very focused leadership at this period, because the fallout of the Coronavirus has thoroughly disrupted our economic plan for year 2020. We cannot  recover from it easily but how we manage it will determine whether we move forward or go down.

If we had budgeted at $60 benchmark for our crude oil  per barrel and the thing is now below $25 and still falling, how do we survive, when all of our imports depend on this?

When we employ the one-sided economcs formula, we will be eliminating gaps or lacuna for excuses because he will tell us straight away the path that we will take, not conjuring and assuming.

It is a one-directional solution that will be tailored to our indigenous needs, that will either sink us or make us to swim ashore. It will tell us if we still need to depend on foreign imports to survive, how we can make local production to work, how our refineries can refine crude oil and produce fuel and other petrochemical derivatives without going abroad; how government must cut costs of governance, make our healthcare centres world class and discourage foreign medical tourism.

It will show us practical ways  to make our educational institutions relevant to society and world class. It will show us how to make the environment peaceful for business to thrive; therefore,  government must use our soldiers properly, in line with putting insurgency to bed.

It will tell us that for us to win the war on terrorism, we have to properly equip our soldiers and imbue them with the right ideological indoctrination.

As it is now, we do not know whether some of our soldiers know why they are fighting this Boko Haram war; the spirit must go with the battle and that is the only way we can win the war.

The one-sided economist will rationalise what we have on ground, balance with the challenges facing this nation and ensure that we live within our boundaries. It will focus on our needs and not our wants; it will also banish all necessary foreign trips.

Thank God that the Coronavirus has confined everyone to his tent, which means that we can survive without looking abroad, we must face and conquer this battle but, where can we find this one-sided economist?

Ikhioya, a social commentator, wrote via www.southsouthecho.com

VANGUARD

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