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What is new in the year 2019?

economy
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A new year is here again! This is a time to wish all Nigerians, and in particular, my esteemed readers a happy New Year.This year’s wish may just be a mere expression of goodwill that may not have any relevance to the lives of some of the recipients of the greeting in Nigeria. Although, if one reflects on a few events that happened at the national level in 2018, there is every reason to be happy in the New Year. The rice revolution of the federal government is yielding results. Nigeria, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria, has made claims that the volume of rice importation into Nigeria in metric tonnes has reduced drastically. This has heralded a new dawn in agriculture. Rail transport is gradually picking up with Nigeria occupying the 97th position on the 2018 railroad infrastructure quality ranking released recently by the World Economic Forum. While there is modest increase in power supply. The N-Power and School Feeding Programmes are some of the social protection packages of the Buhari-led administration.

The federal government’s empowerment scheme popularly known as TraderMoni which was created specifically for petty traders and artisans across Nigeria is ongoing. The scheme which was activated in 2018 advances interest and collateral-free loans to market women and artisans across the country. Despite these efforts, most Nigerians are not where they would have loved to be when one compares the state of affairs to what it was in May 2015. Some Nigerians have argued that there was too much corruption and impunity in the immediate past government, but the economy then was better than what it is today.Truth is that the change is not taking place at the speed expected given the promise of change during the 2015 election campaign by the All Progressives Congress (APC).The level of insecurity is high across the entire country and corruption is still booming. Anyway, Mr President has publicly declared that he may be slow but he would wipe out corruption. He has requested religious groups to help his government wipe out corruption in the country.

Many Nigerians are not happy today for so many reasons too numerous to discuss in this article. The level of poverty is high as Nigeria overtakes India as the world’s poverty capital. By implication, Nigeria has the highest number of poor people in the world. If Nigeria continues on this trajectory without drastic steps taken to ensure that the economy grows faster than population, the country may remain the poverty capital and slum of the world for many years to come. Most of the states are deficient in terms of social and physical infrastructure. Most roads are in poor conditions, health and education facilities are below acceptable standard.

The number of the unemployed is increasing. About 20.93 million Nigerians are unemployed, according to recent statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Yet, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, says that “Buhari’s second tenure will end youth unemployment.” Chris Ngige wants to end unemployment in the next four years if his principal is re-elected this year. This simply shows that Chris Ngigeis now a miracle worker in addition to his ministerial responsibilities in the federal cabinet.But the Minister of Labour and Employment has not defined the term “full employment.” He needs to define the phrase “full employment” because no economy in the world employs all its skilled and unskilled labour at any given time.

What is new in the year 2019 is that Nigeria will go to the polls from 16 February 2019. But only a handful of politicians are interrogating major issues affecting Nigeria today. What are the politicians telling us about provision of quality education, health, food, and shelter for almost 200 million Nigerians? I have not heard anything worthwhile and commendable on health and education. The minimum wage palaver has not been settled as Labour is mobilising for a prolonged strike.The number of tertiary institutions have increased exponentially, but neither the new ones nor the old ones have sufficient funding or required facilities.

The country has serious revenue problem. Indeed, some experts say, that “Nigeria is broke.”The federal government in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) says that it needs to spend as much as US$3.0 trillion in the next 30 years to fill infrastructure gap. How will the country get such an amount to fill the infrastructure gap? The fact is that the federal government doesn’t have the financial muscle to provide the scale of infrastructure that Nigerians can be proud of in the twenty-first century. Since 2017 till date, the federal government’s revenue has been shrinking. But the country spends billions of Naira dailyon petroleum subsidies. The price of crude oil in the international market is dropping, and the country’s Excess Crude Oil Account is depleting.So power supply, fuel subsidies and other wasteful expenses of governments at all levels gulp Nigeria’s resources which would have been used to improve education and health facilities.

Chief executive officers of firms in services and real sectors of the economy are lamenting because of unfavourable business climate. Those who couldn’t cope with the changed business environment have had to relocate from the country. When one looks at the flood of problems in the country, you can guess why some Nigerians are not happy.

The country needs the private sector to partner with the government in filling the infrastructure gap. Removal of fuel subsidy is an economic necessity and a political predicament which must be given serious consideration it deserves.As we move close to the general elections, the task before all Nigerians who love and care about the country is to ensure that we vote for politicians seeking elective offices who have the character, commitment and readiness to do the job for which they would be elected. We should remove tribal and religious sentiments in choosing next crop of leaders at state and federal levels, so that we do not maintain our rank as the world’s poverty capital for more than necessary. Nigerians should vote wisely. Happy New Year to every Nigerian.

 

MA Johnson

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