Why I never believed in Vision 20:2020

by Odilim Enwegbara

I never believed in the so-called vision 20:2020 for the reason that it wasn’t originally ours; and that was why having Yar’Adua’s seven point agenda anchored on the vision for me was simply mere political rhetoric. So, from the onset, I knew it was a daydream that was neither based on a realizable comprehensive economic plan, nor on some properly coordinated implementation plan. I knew from onset that this is another big joke sold to big jokers who call themselves leaders. Shouldn’t the way we are going about the so-called vision enough to make us worrisome how those responsible for policy formulation and implementation are yet to grasp with the complexity of the country’s daunting development problems?

My single reason is that placing Nigeria among the world’s top 20 largest economies by 2020 should mean having Nigeria’s 2020 GDP above $900 billion from about $230 then and $275 billion in 2012; that is, from 41st today to at least 20th, including beating countries like South Africa current 29th down to Poland currently 20th. Take electricity generation. How could that happen when Nigeria with a population of about 170 million simply generates not more than 4,500MW whereas South Africa with a population of 50 million, generates 40MW?

How could it happen if the major driver of the economy continues to be oil? Maybe we expect our output of about 2.5 million barrels daily would make us join this club 20. Should joining this so-called club 20 be possible, I believe it would have been much easier earlier than by 2020 for the simple reason that as we march to 2020, more countries not only join the oil producing club but also produce more oil than we do, making the realization of our 20:2020 dream more and more unrealizable. But how possible is this when 70 per cent of our budget is spent on recurrent while meager 30 per cent spent on capital, minus bribe and system inefficiencies? Can such a prodigal consumer nation, a nation with one of the lowest savings-investment rates in the world become prosperous, when such prosperity comes with aggressively investing in the future? Or how do we want to realize such a dream without making Nigeria one of the world’s top 20 investment friendly countries; without overhauling our legal system and tax regime to first and foremost encourage local investors who should make the country attractive to foreign investors?

But if we should argue that after all most great things start as a joke, then, it means that we have to by now become real with the way we conceive and promote economic development. It means we should have come up with some far-reaching strategies about how to be growing the economy year-in-year-out at rate not less than 15 per cent because that is the only way to make our dream of turning our $275 billion GDP into about $1,000 billion by 2020 because without growing our GDP to above $1,000 billion, the 20:2020 dream would end up another daydream. We should agree that becoming one of 20 largest economies of the world by 2020 will require investing not less than $75 billion annually in the economy, which unfortunately is far more than our annual revenues from oil. Because sacrifice is not in our culture, it’s why we believe in foreigners to do the sacrificing on our behalf by coming to invest their hard earned money in Nigeria while we continue with our prodigal lifestyle.

How do we expect drastic change in Nigeria without changing the way we have always done things? That is why I argue that to successfully confront the odds to development we need to become creative and unconventional in our approach. Since every development is unique, so unique should our solutions be, staring with abandoning our current development paradigm seen only from the prisms of western textbooks. That is why before thinking about becoming one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020, we should first think about how to break away from our present entitlement mentality. Let us begin to believe in ourselves, let us be ready to take the enormous risk and boldness involved, and above all let us once be willing to confront our problems head-on without looking for some foreign hands, foreigners, who ironically, are more interest in freezing our development efforts than helping us.

Moving from the 41st to 2oth on the world’s GDP chart with seven years is an ambitious dream that will require all hands on deck. It will require CBN to abandon its current blind fighting of inflation at all costs, a monetarist policy that besides drying up money in circulation in ways that slows down real economic growth and job creation, also forces investors not to invest in the real sector of the economy but in the financial sector, leading to premature economic financialization and deindustrialization. That is why the 2007 CBN Act should be repealed so to broaden its legislative oversight. It is a mistake of immense proportion that we made by prematurely joining WTO into 1995, and still are making by postponing the revocation of our WTO membership, which has not only caused us unprecedented deindustrialization but also unheard-of millions jobs annually exported the same countries that we import goods from.

The most plausible way this ambitious dream can happen is by dealing with our current high infrastructure deficit head-on, particularly drastically increasing our 4,500MW to not less than 100,000MW by 2020. This should happen because power sector being so critical and so strategic to every economy’s industrialization, is the game-changer for Nigeria’s industrialization and diversification. But there’s no way this can happen with power privatization, because as every modern economy’s game-changer, it can never be left in some private hands, let alone in foreign hands. That is why as sweet as this neo-liberal economic team would want to market privatization to us, it should be recognized as a plot to undermine Nigeria’s ultimate economic rise. If anyone should say that I am exaggerating, let that person show me that developed economy, including the US, Japan, the UK, France, Germany, China, India, Brazil, etc. that has left its power sector solely in private. Or would the recent rise of China, India, and Brazil have been successful without their governments massively investing power?

Fixing our power problem alone should make millions of our small businesses and entrepreneurs get to work and be able to compete with their foreign peers around the world, especially if that comes with access to cheap venture capital financing as well as walling off foreign dumpers from displacing our infant industries.

If every great economy has to borrow massively during their takeoff, why should borrowing to transform our economy be a capital sin? Besides internal savings, would the recent rise of China and India have happened without massively borrowing from whoever was ready to lend them? No amount of borrowings that are productively spent should be considered to be recklessly bequeathing debt to the next generations, since what’re being bequeathed to the future generations are superior infrastructure, unprecedented economic growth, as well as prosperous and harmonious society?

The most plausible way putting the present power problem behind us is to seek sovereign loans from countries like China, using the country’s oil reserves as strategic collateral. Three billion barrels out of our 42 billion barrels of oil, used as strategic collateral to borrow about $300bn which should be repaid after 25 years, should be recognized as the best decision ever to be made by any Nigerian president in an effort to fix our power problem. The reasons for insisting on China are obvious. Not only because China remains today the world’s most solvent economy with about $3.7 trillion in foreign reserves, but also because as the world’s number one power producer, generating 1,140,000MW (against America’s 1,041,000MW), China has the engineering clout to help us quickly move from 4,300MW into 100,00MW within five years.

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