From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has bagged the ‘Dignity of Man Award’ of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). The award was conferred on Okowa at the 57th Founders’ Day ceremony of UNN, which was attended by the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The Sultan of Sokoto,…
I was delighted to hear that Nigeria is now out of the economic recession that crippled life in the country. I was also saddened to learn that the declaration was not based on hard economic facts and figures. The proclamation was probably a political stunt intended to signpost the government’s supernatural economic achievement within a short period of time. No matter how you see it, the declaration has absolutely no bearing on the performance of the economy.
We live in denial of our situation. We prefer to dream. This is not surprising. Dreams are free. In our dreams, we fly even though we have no official commercial or private pilot licence. In our dreams, we swim even though we do not represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games. In our dreams, we consume delicious meals, even though we grapple with hunger and poverty in our everyday life. In our dreams, we achieve anything on which we set our minds. The sad news is that dreams are far from reality.
Dreams are far removed from the practical experiences that stare us in the face when we wake from our slumber. The realists among us see dreams as a kind of optical illusion. In our dreams, what you see is not exactly what we get in life. This is, perhaps, why some parapsychologists advise us to disregard our dreams. Dreams do not mirror or reflect our lives accurately.
Getting out of economic recession is not achieved through dreams or through public declarations and television debate by ministers who have no economic background. The economic status of every country is measured by verifiable figures relating to economic growth. When the economy is in an adverse condition, it is reflected in a country’s gross national product (GNP), that index that measures a country’s total economic activity in a given year. So, when there is a slowdown in economic activity over two consecutive quarters, we know the economy has slipped into a recession. A recession is, therefore, a period of low economic activity. Governments track the performance of the economy over a consecutive period of time. A recession is not an economic condition the government can get rid of through sustained arguments.
It is misleading for any government to inform citizens that a recession that incapacitated national economic growth and strangled people for one year has disappeared magically just like that. The end of a recession does not occur like something that is supernaturally created. Economic growth follows a consistent period of pragmatic planning and implementation of programmes and policies.
Nigeria could not possibly be out of recession unless it has recorded economic growth consistently for a minimum of two quarters. Surely, the recession could not have been over when prices of goods are still way out of the reach of ordinary people. When politicians speak loosely about the end of the recession, they demonstrate poor knowledge and understanding of the economy. When political leaders mount the podium to declare that economic hardships are over when the situation on the ground is in conflict with such a declaration, they exaggerate the performance of the economy, and delude people, who have no basic understanding of the fundamentals of economics.
The country could not be out of recession when citizens do not experience any reduction in economic hardships, when citizens do not see any improvement in their socioeconomic conditions. To be clear, regardless of what politicians say, the recession that shackled the nation in the past one year is still well and truly with us. Economic recession is not a problem that politicians can wish away. It does not respond to political rhetoric. In real life, Nigerian citizens are still pummelled by hunger, disease, adverse foreign exchange rates, poor infrastructure, and failing health care services.
It is only in Nigeria that political leaders mislead citizens about the state of the economy, giving incorrect assurances and dubious figures about national economic growth. They tell citizens the economy is robust, that it is insured against the vagaries of economic uncertainties, and that it is shielded from the impact of low oil prices in the international market. These misleading confidence boosters give citizens the disingenuous impression that the economy is invincible or that it is immune from all kinds of pressures.
During the global economic crisis some years ago, many countries rolled out billions of dollars worth of stimulus packages aimed to stimulate their poor economies. What did our political leaders do? Absolutely nothing! They looked the other way, emboldened by arrogance built on nothing. When the global economy started its free fall, a popular phrase was invented by our politicians to serve as an antidote to the nation’s economic misery. The expression was: “It shall be well with our economy.” It was optimism anchored on immodesty. There were no fail-safe reasons we should be optimistic.
The news that Nigeria has successfully escaped recession is nothing but empty boast. Where are the facts? Where are the economic indices to show we have recorded economic growth for two or more successive quarters? If we are out of recession, why is life still difficult for some people and nasty for many others?
There is no limit to our silliness. While government officials and politicians might choose to mark the end of the recession in an unusual way, many citizens wonder when they would begin to feel the end of the recession. Government propaganda goes out in various forms.
Years before the onset of the current economic recession, the fundamentals of the Nigerian economy had been undermined by official corruption, damaged by bizarre economic planning, and weakened by tedious policy mapped by politicians and bureaucrats, who had no idea about the state of the economy.
To get out of the current economic predicament, we need more hard work, more proactive planning, and more down-to-earth policy. Open expressions of optimism will not drive away our economic woes. We need more planning than prayers. The hopelessness of our situation is too obvious to be missed. The government and the private sector can’t create or provide job opportunities for millions of university and polytechnic graduates. What practical programmes and policies have been put in place by government to mitigate the existing hardships, hunger, poverty, ill health, insecurity, and agitations for independence by ethnic and regional groups?
The government must learn to drop the idea of talking up the economy even when the indices show the government is wasting time swimming in a dry pond. Other countries grow by introducing sound, rational, and practical measures to stimulate their economies, not by political rhetoric, proclaiming the end of economic difficulties.