kemi Adeosun, Nigerians’ Don’t Want Paper Economy.
Let me start by congratulating you on the latest Giant Stride achieved by you, your appointment as the finance minister of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and the most populous black nation in the world. The succeding statements are just to let you know the magnitude of your newest assignment. I assume you are no neophyte to the financial landscape; corporate or public sector. Your new disposition demands that you manage trade, productivity, scarce resources and wealth distribution in a nation of about One Hundred and Fifty Million (150,000,000) people and set the economic standards across the continent for other finance ministers to follow suit.
Retrospect to your academic background and career profile, I might be right to say that the president made a right choice for the nation. A first degree in applied economics and a post-graduate in financial management states that you have in-depth theoretical knowledge in wealth distribution and how to manage wants in between scarce means. Your career page tells that you have a colourful career that spans across risk management, auditing, financial management and investor relations in the most prominent financial institutions around the world. Your appointment as Nigeria’s finance minister did not come as a surprise, after watching your show of capacity and composure at the house of assembly screening, I could tell you were headed for the economic coordination of this nation.
Nigeria is in a period of economic turbulence, statistics says that over Sixty Million (60,000,000) Nigerians are living below the global poverty line standard, inexact numeracy of youths are out of jobs, the supposed excess crude account and treasury are said to be empty. We are in an acclaimed debt of about $60 billion and the dollar is strengthening against the Naira on a ‘per second billing’. With a successful career in United Kingdoms’s private sector and limited time-space in Nigerian public sector, except your four years as commissioner of finance in Ogun state. It is not a good time to come on board with such little experience, but an opportunity to eche your name in gold by pulling the nation’s comatose economy out of doldrums. Your predecessor was also canonized with the title “co-coordinating minister of the economy”. It is governmental nomenclature I did not understand until her last days in office. Whether President Buhari confers you with the title or not, Nigerians have come to see finance ministers as economy coordinating ministers. The responsibility of resource and budget allocation, advising the presidency on risk and debt management, stringent monitoring of allocated resources to ministries and ensuring resource efficacy are all your ministerial mandates. You must look for measures to grow this economy by at least 8% over the next two years. The expected increase seems impossible at a time like this, but Nigeria is still a very fertile ground, the economic soil has not yet been tilled. Potentials abound; ocean economy in Lagos and the Niger Delta, solid minerals in Ondo and Osun state, agricultural potentials in rich arable northern lands are among a few means to help diversify and grow this economy.There is presently no enterprising revenue source except oil, and oil dependency is beginning to go out of demand. The United States, biggest buyers now have shale and the world is diversifying to an alternate source of energy. You must raise finances either from bonds, domestic or international market. We must begin to rebuild an indebted economy that lacks capital infrastructures and too much of financial waste. Fashola quoted at his senate ministerial screening; “USA has a debt of over $9 trillion but the world runs to her universities”. The former governor also stated that he is not in support of excessive debt, but the capital investment of loans, management of debts and payment accrued interest.
The Nigerian populace lived the past three years on acclaimed statistics, we only heard the economy was growing. It was not reflecting in existential reality. My father still gives monthly allowance to his four children whom are all graduates, the old man has given up his deserved pension for the looters who misappropriate and reinvest the monetary compensations of men and women who gave up family time, and served this nation. We heard of a certain $550 billion GDP. Nigeria is the only country that has a GDP over $550 billion and has 65% of her population living in poverty and macroscopic size of her youth unemployed. Only India again in the top 20 nations by GDP has a poverty rate of 20% and 5% unemployment. Nigeria, an exemption on the chart tells that the data are just paper works. GDP reflects in wealth distribution, cost of living and standard of living (level of wealth and resources available to a socio-economic class). Nigerians work too many hours to earn meager salary, that is not enough to make available basic resource and amenities. Though, this depends on the socio-economic class and geographic area, but it is not untrue that Nigeria has just two socio-economic classes; the very wealthy and the desperately poor. I cannot quote statistics as Nigeria has no approved statistical database, all statistics have been assumed. If going by salary of the average Nigerian university degree holder, the median income in Nigeria ranges between $4,500-$6,000 annually compared to Taiwan at $35,000 and Thailand at $33,000. These countries are positioned just below and above Nigeria on the GDP table. It is uncopacetic, such disparity that the Nigerian cost of living is not commensurate with the living standard, it is very inversely proportionate. The quality of life staying as an independent variable determined by godfathers and oligarchs , standard of living as numerator and the cost of living decimating Nigerians into poverty. Majority of Nigerians are either uninformed or illiterates, so it was easy to deceive a gullible populace with data and ambiguous grammars on paper. Your predecessor never agreed the nation was in debt until the tale end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. She always assured that the economy was in harmony, investor relations was ongoing and that unemployment will trickle down.
Are you going to close borders like china did in 2001 and do domestic trade; enhance local production, low cost on exportation, boost indigenous manufacturers, support SMEs with loans, granting SMEs local and international marketing platforms or you open doors for foreign investors with policies that would see them develop these economy, payment of light taxes not at the expense of the Nigerian consumer, and employ our ticking infernal machine of unemployed youths. I implore that you give this job an holistic view. I am not undermining your capacity to do the job but I pray God will instill the integrity to get it done without being a fiddle, a godfather representative to misappropriate federal allocations and further wreck this economy and make poorer an already impoverished populace. Though Nigerians are resilient and will always pull through but you have a good name, do not make that name repugnant. If you can not coordinate this economy, take a bow, we shall applaud you. In as much as we desire transparency, and that you keep us informed. We want to see beyond snap shots of investor and foreign meetings on social media. We demand an economy beyond colourful info-graphics and oratory skills. Economic models differ by region, the American or European model might not work for us.
Kemi Adeosun under your watch, I look forward to an economy in reality where my parents can live on their pensions without waiting for monthly stipends from their kids. A nation where I can work six hours daily and still have access to basic amenities, a nation where I would see no underage kid selling on Lagos roads, compared to the ‘about 30’ I see everyday on the Maryland-Yaba route to Lagos Island. I hope you can reposition Nigeria’s economy to her place on the global pendence, help her set trade and resource distribution yard stick for Africa. Alleviate the poverty level to a barest minimum, manage our debts, strengthen the Naira against the Dollar, boost local productivity, control inflation, restore the purchasing power of the Naira and regulate living cost for the middle class; where I can get a decent accommodation with my salary and pay over time without excessive interest rate. Let me then admonish that you get to work but have in mind that Nigerians do not want falsified statistics and this time it should be Economy over Economics.
I sincerely wish you the very best.