Oil: Diversification And Economic Development

We may not develop and diversify our economy if we continue to rely on oil as the mainstay of our economy and source of foreign exchange. We need to diversify our economy if we hope to ever grow and improve the standard of living of our people. Our dependence on oil has had effect on us in terms of our politics, economics, development, psyche and culture. A look at most of the countries that have stable economy will see economies that are diversified and do not depend on mono natural resources. We may be a major oil producer but we still run an outdated and mono economy. For us to join the modern economy, we need to sort out certain thing about the way we run the country. Some of the things we need to sort out include corruption, large and ineffective bureaucracy.

Corruption must be tackled head on. The message should start from the family unit to the leadership and all other institutions. We cannot make any head way until we tackle this menace. A look at the country will see this virus in virtually all that we do from favouritism to nepotism to embezzlement, bribery, faulty leadership structure, culture of impunity, lawlessness, disconnect with the masses, faulty and dysfunctional institutions ,insincerity etc .The bane of our institutional inefficiency, dilapidated and unavailable infrastructure, underdevelopment and policy failure are all rooted in corruption. We seem to have mortgaged the life of the coming generation by our corrupt tendencies. So for us to talk of economic development we need to cover this dungeon. It is either we minimise corruption or we should forget about economic development. Also as inimical as corruption is also the cost of running the government and bureaucracy.

The amount spent in running the government is excessively high and in the end not sustainable .The Punch newspaper estimated that we spent close to 70% of our revenue in servicing the egos of less than 8% of the population in the public service, political office holders and government bureaucracy. We all know that in as much as this is important it is not really a productive sector of any economy. We have to pay an unsustainable salary to the councillors down to the routine of relevant and irrelevant staffs of the public office holders from the PA to the SA and senior special Assistance and PA to the PA and PA to the SA and PA to the gardeners. These entire jobs are for the boys while the greater percentage of the people still wallows in poverty. Our rulers show every sign of arrogance and insensitivity. They behave as if they are from a different planet and country from Nigeria. In addition, we have a blotted bureaucracy were majority of the civil servant either engage in gossip peddling or other businesses outside their main job. We need to trim down the bureaucracy, as it appears unsustainable due to the economic situation. In addition, the presidential system we are operating appears too expensive and a drain in the nation’s pulse. We should evolve option that will make the system less expensive and costly. We need a process that will evolve credible and visionary leadership that understands the intrigue and the capacity of building a modern society.

This leadership should seek ways possible to diversify our source of revenue, as the current state is unsustainable. With our population, we are still a very poor country. We should not be comparing ourselves with Libya, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and others. God did not give us oil to be embezzled by the few in power neither did it give us oil to make us lazy and corrupt. God gave us oil to enable us have easy assess to cash to build infrastructure and have the basic things of life ie electricity, functional transport system, health care, food and secured future. As it stands now, our oil resources are being spent by less than 3% of the population. For us to make any tangible progress we need to plan that in the next 5 to 10 years we would stop this oil sharing formulae and encourage all the tiers of government to find alternative sources of income. This will encourage initiatives, competition, diversification, productivity and development of our economy. It will encourage fiscal federalism that would guarantee the growth and development of our economy. We are blessed in this country to the extent that every state and local government can find alternative source of income, but we decided to be lazy because of the free money flowing from oil. All most all the countries of the western world and their researchers are devoting a substantial part of their resources to alternative to fossil fuel. If we fail to act now we may suffer for it later. After the 5 years we should channel all the money we make to special dedicated fund that will be solely used for infrastructural development ie increase generation of electricity, good transport system, telecommunication system, roads ,Pipe borne water, good health facilities and railway. No society can grow and develop without these basic things added to this we can also establish the SWF {sovereign National Fund) like most other commodity rich countries like Russia, UAE, Norway, Dubai, Kuwait etc and others like Singapore and China. We can only develop our economy by concentrating our efforts in other viable ventures like the following:

Infrastructure: We need to develop our infrastructural base as a way of developing our economy and helping other business ventures and sectors to develop.

Agriculture: This employs a sizeable part of the population and can lead to the reduction of the poverty, industrialisation, and improved food security, reduction of unemployment, increased individual and government revenue. We have an arable land and human resources. We need to encourage our farmers, provide the enabling environment, engage in mechanise farming, modernise our faming techniques and remove the entire bottleneck that have hindered the development of this sector. We spend well over 1 billion dollars annually in the importation of rice and fish while we can grow that in various part of the country. We have the market that can absolve anything we produce. We can establish agro-base industries in virtually every part of the country.

Tax system: We can fashion out a system that will encourage and streamline our tax system. Majority of the advanced economy in the world depend solely on the tax system for the sustenance of their economies .It would also encourage the population to hold our leaders accountable and monitor how our resources are spent.

Education: A functional education system is important if we wish to evolve from our current state of underdevelopment. Our educational system both formally and informally should be consciously developed .We should encourage entrepreneurs, skills, technology and productive based educational system and place less emphasis on certificates.

In the informal sector: We should strive to encourage SME’s because apart from serving as the engine room for development they can also reduce the high level of unemployment and encourage entrepreneur skills and development.

Attitudes; we need a change of attitudes towards our country, the way we do things and a change in our value system. We seem to lack patriotism and conscience in everything we do. This is the root of our leadership corruption.

We can also develop our tourist sector, financial service sector and clusters of small-scale industries. We have the market already and we can export them to all other African countries. We need a sustained campaign to encourage people to patronise made in Nigeria good .I still remember when we call goods from Japan, Taiwan and China substandard good. They now manufacture virtually everything to the European and US market. We use to have then Igbo- made which would have been up there also.

We should be able to adapt and copy technologies and mass-produce them in the country.

We cannot continue to rely on oil alone .It has encourage laziness, unproductive economy, bad leadership, underdevelopment,

hatred and division. The way we use it now, it is more of a problem instead of a solution in our aim of being among the leading economy in the world.

Written by
Paul Ogwu Okwuchukwu
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