Yes, we had one year to avert this, but in our usual manner we played ping-pong with the economy. It is now official that we are in a recession and as they say, it’s the worst in the last 29 years. The Statistician-General came out yesterday to say that over a million people have joined the unemployment market while reeling out other scary statistics.
These are clear figures. Figures that cannot be wished away or colored by the usual political paintbrush. Things are really bad and in fact, worse since the emergence of change.
We cannot continue to mourn or cover ourselves in sack clothes while we destroy our children’s future. It is now time to build a major coalition across all divides with a view to fighting this thing seriously.
The Federal Government has in its usual style, come out with the wrong foot first. They have said, ‘Oh, do not worry! Things will get better in the next quarter. This ‘ostrich’s head in the sand’ strategy is what has led us to where we are. Two months ago, when the indication was rife that we were in a recession, the Minister of Finance said ‘Oh no! We are technically in a recession’ and this diverted attention and warded off the seeming panic only for us to now come face to face with our worst nightmare in a generation.
What do we do? I think we should all go back and read Hon. Wale Oluwo’s publication in ThisDay, where he called for a fundamental restructuring of the political and economic space. I agree totally with him. In his write-up, he had called for a devolution of economic powers to the state, a reduction in the centralized control of resources and decision taking. A reduction in the cost of running the federal government and the federal government going on to become just the collector of taxes and dues.
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This would, not only entrench true federalism, but would also ensure efficiency in decision taking. The federal government in its present constitution lacks the swiftness needed to tackle this headlong. I am now realizing why the Government wanted to declare a state of economic emergency. I still do not believe that this would be the right vehicle to attempt a solution.
The answer to our present malaise is embedded within us. We just do not have the right mix of policy initiators at the center to tinker out the right policies and then implement them.
We have the founder of Facebook recently visit Nigeria and have fun while doing it. These people do not do things for the fun of it. Their strategist or think-tank would have thrown up this market as the next explosion, hence his decision to come and see things for himself. We are only blind to our full potentials, hence the continuous reliance upon the old ways of doing things and old technocrats in getting us out of the woods.
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Technology, services, entertainment, large pool of technology savvy youth population, huge retail market potentials are all ingredients that can be used to cook a very delicious recipe for economic rejuvenation. But can we see it? I doubt especially with what has been coming out from Government and its spokesmen.
We could also look at Gas as a short-term buffer pending when the longer termed solution earlier mentioned comes on stream.
I still have faith in the resilient nature of our economy and still believe very firmly in the fact that this problem is elitist driven and can be resolved by going to the ‘retail poor’ to borrow from. Lifestyle must change, frugality must be the watchword. Firms, and platforms that encourage this scavenger-type lifestyle must be strangulated and killed. And on the flip side, firms that encourage forex revenue generation schemes and the creation of jobs locally must be supported with tax incentives and other such Government support.
This is looking like it will be a rough ride, we must all hunker down and sit still till we come out of this. God save us.