Thursday, 06 June 2019 03:52

[OPINION]: Buhari and the Economist: Between Growth and Development -Jide Oluwajuyitan

By the law of Mother Nature, the strong survives and the weak dies. It is the survival of the fittest wherelife is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. This was what forced men out of hostile European environment to Africa in search of food, gold and glory. With superior fire power, they soon forcefully integrated African society into the world economy by shipping 12.5 million Africans to the new world between 1525 and 1886, out of which 10.7m survivedto lay the foundation forwestern Europe’s prosperity. From slavery to globalization, it is all about law of nature-the strong feeding on blood of the weak. The agreement to substitute natural law with international law after 67 years of brutal European wars did not change the narrative.

International organisations such as World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund (IMF) formed after the Breton Wood conference in 1944 to foster global growth and economic stability by working with developing nations toachieve macro-economic stability and reduce poverty only consolidated the mindset. Help comes  only after vulnerable help-seekers have met the IMF ‘conditionalities’or what is also known as ‘Washington consensus’, whichinclude austerity measures (to further impoverish the people), devaluation of currencies, trade liberalization or lifting of import and export restrictions and of course privatization or divestiture of all state-owned enterprises.

 

Even with the assault on the economyby President Shehu Shagari, party-chairman Meredith Adisa Akinloye and their NPN between 1979-1983, our economy was still resilient with our naira as strong as the pound sterling and twice as strong as the US dollar.But that all that changed with Babangida’s ill-advised IMF inspired Structural Adjustment Programme, earlier rejected by Muhammadu Buhari but vociferously championed by Olu Falae and Kalu Idika Kalu.  As demanded by IMF, our market was opened to manufactured goods from Europe and America leading to instant collapse of our budding industries including the vehicle assembly plants, electronics, and shoe, battery, tyre and textile industries among many others.For instance, theKano Gaskiya textile factory commissioned in 1985 by Muhammadu Buhari with staff strength of 4000 was about thelargest in West Africa.It finally collapsed in 2005. In all, over 300,000 jobs were lost in the textile industry alone.

With no lesson learnt from Babangida failed commercialization rip-off, President Olusegun Obasanjobetween 2003-2007, also embraced the IMF inspired privatization programme. But despite meeting IMF deregulation, liberalization and privatization‘conditionalities’, the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS).,its related initiative at state level, designed to raise the standard of living of Nigerians failed. Other objectives such as rebuilding  decaying infrastructure, creation of 7 million new jobs, diversification of the economy, boosting non-energy exports, increase industrial capacity utilization, and improve agricultural productivity were never achieved.

 

But there was growth. In 2013, our economy was ranked as the largest economy in Africa, the 27th-largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP, and the 22nd-largest in terms of purchasing power parity. Nigerian GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) was said to have almost tripled from $170 billion in 2000 to $451 billion in 2012. Indeed, Citigroup report published in February 2011, predicted Nigeria will have the highest average GDP growth in the world between 2010 and 2050. But it was growth without development. The multinationals and their local representatives were the major beneficiaries. Unlike development, growth had no positive impact on quality of education, health services, infrastructuraldevelopment, communication, political participation and overall quality of life of the ordinary Nigerians.

As it was in 1984, Buhari in 2015 decided to change the narrative by rejecting the Breton Wood growth-focused economic policies (Lamido Sanusis, Emir of Kano also recently expressed regret for his blind faith in Breton Woods Economic policies as CBN Governor) which serve only the interest of multinationals and their local representatives.For the nation’s decayed infrastructures he sought help from China for support. And since, the nation could not feed herself in spite of the celebrated growth between 1999 and 2015, he deployed huge resources into the agricultural sector to ensure self-sufficient in food production.

But perhaps because The Economist of Londononly uses growth as index of measurement of prosperity, it saysNigeria has become the poorest nation on earthin the last four years of Buhari, predicting more misery for Nigerians in the next four years.In its May 31 edition, it also says ‘with 94m Nigerians surviving on less than $1.90 a day, a quarter of very poor people in the whole world would be Nigerians by 2030. It criticized the federal government’s social investment programmes (SIP), and government school-feeding programmes. For the nation to  escape the terrible fate that it believes awaits her,The Economistpredictably recommends further assault on the poor through the devaluation of the naira and raising the pump price of fuel.

But sinceit is often difficult to serve twomasters with equal fervor, TheEconomist cannot be expected to be an unbiased umpire. It is therefore not unexpected that it has not taken notice of government efforts at changing the focus from growth to development.In any case, a news magazine which oncedescribed  itself as “a product of the Caledonian liberalism of Adam Smith and David Hume” and has remained an unrepentant promoter of classical and economic liberalism that supports free trade, globalisation, immigration and cultural liberalism was only being true to itself.

It was for this reason Karl Marx, the socialist theorist dismissed The London Economist “as the European organ of the aristocracy of finance, (which) described most strikingly the attitude of this class”, and the reason the Guardian concludes “its writers rarely see a political or economic problem that cannot be solved by the trusted three-card trick of privatisation, deregulation and liberalization. Others who question the impartiality of  the news magazine include  John Raston Saul, who says it is a “magazine which hides the names of the journalists who write its articles in order to create the illusion that they dispense disinterested truth rather than opinion” andEdward Baptist the author of‘slavery and American capitalism’ who attributed the news magazine’s harsh review of his work to its adherence to “free-market fundamentalist” theories, “the idea that everything would be better if measured first and last by its efficiency at producing profit.

Of course questioning the neutrality of the London Economist is not to say many Nigerians including those who had no choice but to vote for President Buhari in the last election are satisfied with his below-average performance during his first term. That will amount to living in denial.Many are still angry with the president’s handling of herdsmen siege on the middle belt food region of the country, the endless reprisal  killings in southern Kaduna, the take- over of Kaduna-Abuja road by hoodlums, the reign of terror by cattle rustlers, banditry and illegal gold miners in Zanfara and kidnapping for ransom across the nation.Unfortunately, until the President’s last Monday reported approval of state and LGA policing, the cheapest way to tackling insecurity, many Nigerians believe, because of his disregard for public opinion, he and those terrorizing Nigerians are jointly responsible for holding Nigeria hostage.

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