Repositioning the Nigerian economy for growth (1)

by Odilim Enwegbara

We have been suffering from an oil wealth illusion. Because oil money flows without the people or the government involved, we’ve developed an entitlement mentality. Since some distant nations and people provide us with oil money we prodigally spend, we also believe that the same foreigners should be the ones responsible for our country’s development. That is how deep-seated the illusion has grown.
Waking up from this subconscious illusion remains extremely difficult because it should begin with mental rather than economic decolonization. Freeing the mind from its current imprisonment is the only way to have patriotism and common good mentality in Nigeria. It’s also how to make people realize that minimizing today’s comfort is the only way to make tomorrow’s prosperity possible since there is no nation out there that we know of that one day woke up and became great without its people making all the necessary long-running sacrifices to make it happen.

So, Nigeria needs a full breakaway from its present mentality, a breakaway from today’s development that consolidates poverty. In other words, if we truly want to find our way out of this unending poverty, it’s time we did what is required to move in the right direction of development. But that would require enormous risk and boldness, boldness that comes when a people believe that it’s time to confront their problems head-on as well as to seek original solutions to difficult challenges rather than adopt solutions handed by some foreign nations and their accomplices. As simple as it may sound, the secret of development is this boldness as well as sacrifice by both the government and the citizens in their efforts to confront the odds to development. Quickening the process is when boldness comes with creative and unconventional approach to development.

The fact that those running our economy are addicted to western development textbooks is what makes us gutless as we try to find the right direction to our journeying to economic development. Wholly adopting economics taught in western countries only goes to further promote and protect western interest rather than developing countries’ interest. Our naivety comes with our poor understanding of the fact that as we fight to free ourselves from western exploitation as their cheap raw material backyard, so do they fight back to ensure that they keep the status quo intact, where they keep us suppliers of cheap raw materials in exchange for their expensive manufactured goods. So as they continue winning, so they continue determining the next stage of this unending survival of the fittest warfare.

Adam Smith and David Ricardo did all they could as British economists to try to fool the rest of the world into believing that practicing their version of economics which was to keep the rest of the world Britain’s raw material backyard, while Britain industrial goods supplier to the rest of the world. But nations that understood the game refused, knowing that there’s no way they too could industrialize like Britain if they remain suppliers of raw materials. The same cleverness was what Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman displayed when they championed neoliberal economics or what I call Americanomics, designed to promote and protect more of American interest around the world and less the interest of the rest of the world.

It is this wholesale adoption of neoliberal economics because some of us who studied economics in the US were so brainwashed in believing in Americanomics that we have become the prisoners of economics designed to exploit other nations. That adopting Americanomics is setting us backward rather than forward is all over the place for every Nigerian to see, except those who are already addicted to it. China and India not only joined the west but are now beating the west in the development game because rather than embracing Americanomics they came up with their own development paradigm. In other words, the only way we too can escape this western development trap is to stop seeing development purely from the prisms of western textbooks. That is the only way to discover that every development has its unique challenges, which require unique solutions that are hardly learned from reading western textbooks.

That is why moving economies like ours in the right development route should start with the full abandonment of everything neoliberal. It should begin only when we embrace planning as the secret of development because planning systematically dismantles the assumed mysteries surrounding development. That is why neoliberals are against developing countries embracing planning in their quest to development. That is why as a neoliberal economist, the minister of finance quickly made the National Planning Commission redundant in Nigeria.

Therefore, restart our development journey, we should quickly embrace development planning, the inevitable map to guide us in finding our way in this journey into the unknown. Without this navigational tool, we should continue to get lost in this ocean of development. Without it no nation has ever succeeded in this journey, and we shouldn’t be the first. But undertaking this development journey also requires political will. It requires the devil may care leadership mindset.

Let’s, therefore, agree that Nigeria cannot continue pretending that it is making some progress in its journey to development without having handy a development master plan. Or how could we project what the economy should look like in the next five years, the next ten years, and the next twenty years without rigorously planning all the processes and stages? We need it if we want to be time-bound, financial-bound, and execution-bound in our development. We need the master plan if we want to see ahead western roadblocks, neoliberal development blockades and how to avoid these ambushes. We need it if we want to truly discover how our current resources are in meeting our development. We need it to stop the current wastages in government.

Imagine Lagos and Abuja competing with their plans in becoming Africa’s financial capital by 2020, or Port Harcourt wanting to become Nigeria’s Dubai by 2020. Shouldn’t it be a fierce competition when Kano, Abia, Anambra, and Ogun are competing with their individual state plans on which of them would emerge as Africa’s leading industrial hub by 2020? Imagine having Delta, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa and Edo fiercely competing among themselves on which of them should emerge as Africa’s number one petrochemical hub by 2020; or Enugu, Oyo, Imo, Osun, and Kaduna competing on which becomes Africa’s cultural and knowledge capital! What a ferocious competition should we expect when should Kogi, Sokoto, Nassarawa, Katsina, Borno, Jigawa, and Bauchi fight over which becomes our solid mineral mining and processing hub; or Kwara, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Ebonyi, and Niger competing over the food basket of Africa? How messier could it be should Cross Rivers, Plateau, and Bauchi all have plans to emerging Africa’s tourist destination?
Plans that set these high targets for the states should be plans that have explored all the financial and implementation implications to realizing the set goals. No doubt, such plans should come with unending nightmares to the governors, especially when competing over domestic and foreign investors forces them to compete over whose state is Nigeria’s business-friendliest state and most sophisticated with unconventional revenue generating strategies. The good news is that the more intense the competition turns, the smarter and more businesslike each governor becomes, especially in an effort to maximizing the state’s competitive advantages.

With peer competition, comes speedier development. Fierce competition among the states means constantly reinventing the states, meaning also reinventing business-government and business-institution relationships. And as they diversify away from oil, they become less and less interested in waiting for oil revenue allocation as it is less importa

nt driver of competitiveness. With such business-like mindset both the governors and the president begin to see government like a business, a business that should always be nurtured in ways to justify every investment if it has to remain attractive and profitable to investors.

Lt’s imagine the national economic development plan which demands that all the state capital cities as well as major commercial and industrial cities across the country be fully redesigned to make them 21st century cities. Imagine, in redesigning these cities with all humanist and natural beauties and as important tourist destinations, the same national master demands the establishment of a National City and Urban Renewal Commission, which as a national melting pot, attracts Nigeria’s best planners, architects, landscapers, civil and construction engineers.

Imagine an ambitious plan designed to transform BRICS into BRINCS before 2018. Imagine an ambitious plan that challenges us to turn today’s $275 billion GDP to $2,000 trillion by 2020. Imagine the plan that recognizes that to realize this, the country needs to find the unconventional solutions to its current infrastructure deficit, including increasing its current 4,000 megawatts of electricity to about 100,000 megawatts by 2020, and aggressively expanding and modernizing its current road network as a world-class road infrastructure that in ways to make movement of goods, services and humans always easier, cheaper, and safer.

And above all, imagine a national development plan that comes with a full-scale industrialization and economic diversification strategies and details, including how to find the money to start such industrialization revolution. Imagine a national plan that factors in the urgency for the country to quit WTO, so that by doing so it can freely impose high tariffs on foreign made goods or ban them from entering the country. Imagine and imagine the unprecedentedly unmatched multiplier and trickle-down effects as well as the explosion in job growth we should have by just fixing the country’s infrastructure, promoting and protecting millions small businesses, especially by making available specially tailored cheap funds and venture capital financing to these small businesses. Imagine having such an infant industry law that forces governments at all levels to build both industrial parks and model factors, strategic factors built and sold to our gifted business people on mortgage basis which their ownership changes with mortgages payment completed. To be continued next week.

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