The first and biggest problem this nation has had since independence is that we always think that “Money is the Answer” Because of this school of thought (lol, the irony) we have created many wealthy people but poor systems. We always tend to measure any problem by – How much do we need to fix this- . This has led to a lot of rich people who have taken advantage of our willingness to always put money into fixing problems come up with solution based on figures rather than facts. So in the end, when the solution doesn’t work, we put in more money.
So, when we see that the Government is putting more money in a region than another, we hurriedly jump to conclusions without necessarily looking at facts and not just figures only. Recession is not just a word to many people who have lost jobs, or even those who are in jobs where their meager salaries cannot cope with the increase in the costs of living, neither is it just a word to the man whose business is on the verge of a close down because of dwindling patronage. I have been able to put down a few ways which the government can reduce the effects of the recession on the people, because on the long run, it is we that feel the wrath of everything.
• FOREX POLICY – Nigeria is an import based economy. We import virtually everything we consume. Even the crude oil we produce, we still have to import at one stage. As such, our Forex policies should be such that will make Forex more available for people, especially those who do business. Right now, we have 3 exchange rates for the USD and the value you get is as a function of who you know, and funnier still, when going on pilgrimage. Those who need Forex more are those who utilize it for their businesses. Policies should be set up to make the exchange rate favorable to everyone, and also at a uniform rate. This will boost importation of all necessary to continue businesses for many people and also ensure the prices of commodities are reduced, which will in turn affect the cost of production.
• EMBASSIES – I don’t know how true it is but then statistics say 2 out of every3 Nigerian wants to leave the country. Embassies of countries set up in Nigeria generate a whole lot of income by charging relatively high “Application Fees”. Due to desperation, majority will pay for this. Do i blame them, No. The cost and stress of obtaining a Nigerian Visa is quit enormous ( Always count yourself lucky that you have a Nigerian passport, that’s if you wee able to get before the booklets finished). If the Nigerian government reduces the cost or totally removes the Visa fees, from certain countries and enter agreements for such nations to do same, there will be lesser amount of money directly leaving our country due to these fees. Imagine a Nation charging $100 to apply for Visa, and 1000 people apply a month. That’s some money leaving our economy directly, without any direct impact as you might even be refused and have to apply again.
• LOCAL REFINING: – Whether the Government likes it or not, there are and will continue to be local refineries of Crude in Oil producing parts of the country. Rather than clamp down on such, government is supposed to charge these refineries to set up such businesses properly. They should be charged on meeting set standards, such as HSE and the likes. Imagine an LGA having 5 of such refineries which can collectively produce over 100,000Litres of PMS daily. Just give them stern environmental conditions and bingo, we have our refining industry creating more jobs as they expand, fuel becomes cheaper because no one is paying any subsidy and it’s not traveling across continents to get here (lol, don’t we all like cheaper fuel). Government also makes money, because of course, these organizations will be taxed.
• CURB SPENDING:- I see no reason why NASS spent #36Bilion on cars for members at this point. The NASS is currently doing more harm than good and this is not just because they spend a lot of time on recess (even when there was no recession), and also do not seem to know which bills are of greater importance to benefit the people, they seem to be bent on spending a whole lot of money. That it is in the budget does not mean it should be spent. Many of the allowances and pensions our office holders allot themselves is just sickening. We spend so much on running the government which is made up of less than 1% of the populace than we actually spend on relevant projects and people. We need to reduce the amount we spend on frivolous things and activities.
• EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: The ease of doing business index ratings is synonymous to the level of development a country is opened to and even enjoys. There is little or no wonder when we realise that Nigeria, despite the amount of money in circulation is still ranked amongst the bottom 10 in the world in this regard. We need to look at the factors that are used and address each one critically. It takes about a month to register a business name in Nigeria, whereas, in the UK, it takes just a day. Multiple taxation across all tiers of government should also be addressed and when you consider the dearth in infrastructure, companies and organizations are left with a very precarious choice of either leaving the shores of the country to do business, or generally increasing the prices of goods and services rendered.
• POLICY STABILIZATION: Although this is more of a long term solution to attracting more FDI into the economy, it has to begin now. There are too many laws, policies and the likes that contradict each other and does not make relevant businesses thrive in Nigeria. Looking at POWER for instance, we are undoubtedly where we are because of policies, and not because there are no willing investors. A court ruling is what determines the price we pay for electricity today, and not the normal market. Imagine a firm willing to invest to generate more electricity, but then cannot make profit because the policy on power can change at any point in time. Not just power but in all other sectors on which our development hinges.
• DECENTRALIZATION: We need to know that things do not work in this country many times because we intend to see beyond the fact that even though we are one country, we are different states and cultures and as a result, things that will work in the north might not work in the south the same way. As such, things are meant to be done as regards state of residence. For instance, corps members are paid the same allowance across the federation. Someone in Ibadan will spend 100-150k and get a very good 3 bedroom flat for the year, while someone in say Calabar will get a small single room with that same amount, while those in most parts of the north will most likely be given free accommodation all through. We are expected to pay the same cost for light regardless of location as the staff are mostly paid same but then their costs of living is different. We need to decentralize everything and give states more powers to boost their own economies. This is one of the major things that is helping the Federal Republic of Lagos. Lagos generate her own power for really important places like hospitals, street lights and co. Lagos is producing Rice to sell to her people. If more of this is done, more rural communities will be developed because more people will retire there to start businesses as the cost of living is lower than the urban centres with relevant benefits.
• MADE IN NIGERIA: As a champion for the Made In Nigeria brand, I believe that we must start patronizing our own brands to help create more jobs and also boost the GDP of our Nation. Not only that, we will b spreading a positive message about the goods and services rendered by our compatriots to the global scale. I believe this is a course we should all succumb to, and this will also improve the quality as organizations will be given feedback on how to improve.
• MINING INDUSTRY: We need to create an industry out of mining. There are many other minerals that states should be allowed to take possession of and grant concessions to miners who will in turn create jobs, both skilled and unskilled for our people.
We Nigerians also must try to make life easier for ourselves. That we are selling some things or rendering services does not mean we must exploit those who patronize us. Imagine someone increasing the cost of parking space from 300 to 500 the next day because dollar has increased or those who will buy stuff for 2000 and sell at 15000 because they are placing adverts on the TL. We can’t complain of low patronage when we have overpriced all our commodities. That’s why it’s the shops like Shoprite, Spar, Justrite, adide and the likes that are making it these days, because the pricing is reasonable compared to the normal market people where we are used to.
Regardless, Our Government still has a lot of responsibility to the people to fix the economy and revive it so that the next year will be booming and we can have reasons to smile. They should also know that there s something called basic economics and market forces. You cant bas importation of rice, without enough local production and expect the cost to remain same. You don’t increase the cost of data that is basic human necessity according to UN, You don’t ban importation of cars by road boarder when we are not an island. Make an industry of it. In the meantime, Please beg Uncle Mavro to comeback, as recession might just kill some people if he doesn’t show up in January as promised.
Kazeem Oguntade is a seasoned businessman and computer scientisit. You can read more of his articles on his website, OguntadeWrites