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History, Recession and a Sector in Progressive Decay

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Recession

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. -Abraham Lincoln

Two days after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced on Saturday, November 21, 2020, that the Nigerian economy has slipped into its second recession in five years, and the worst economic decline in almost four decades as the gross domestic product contracted for the second consecutive quarter with the nation’s GDP recording a negative growth of 3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, I stumbled on two opposing views about history.

The first emphasized the views that history promotes scepticism, a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more putative instances of knowledge which are asserted to be mere belief or dogma, and sharpens one’s critical minds which give room for assessing programmes of development with reference to their historical antecedents.

For the other, history is a storehouse of practical lessons in human activities. To drive the argument home, it submitted; If Africans and, in fact, Nigerians could truly retain the knowledge that they were enslaved and colonized, they will strive to be developed and independent so that it will not happen again,

Without a doubt, it is a perfect disclosure. But the example is so ‘horrendous’, in parts, because they are the direct opposite of what Nigeria is all about. Here, it is always ‘convenient to forget and uncomfortable to remember’.

In line with the above piece of information, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja said that the downturn (recession) was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic including lockdowns, disruption in global supply chains, business failures and rising unemployment.

Mr President, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, stated this while declaring open the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit with the theme Building Partnerships for Resilience and jointly organized by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

Peripherally, Mr President’s points look valid considering the fact that oil production fell to 1.67 million barrels a day from 1.81 million barrels in the previous quarter, and according to reports, the lowest since the third quarter in 2016 when the economy last experienced a recession. This is made worse by the awareness that crude oil accounts for nearly 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.

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It is, however, significant to underline, before going further the fact that this opinion article is written not to pass judgement against or wholeheartedly approve and endorse his claim but to consider and set record straight about how the rise of obnoxious policies/decisions lavishly made since 2015 serve only to exacerbate the decline of the nation’s economy and jeopardizes our democracy.

With the above highlighted, let us focus on and be guided by some specific comments credited to well foresighted and quietly influential Nigerians that reacted to the latest economic downturn.

To some, it is no surprise Nigeria entered yet another recession. Their argument is hinged on the premise that until Nigeria is led by an intellectually competent leader, with visionary politics backed by sound economic thinking and knowledge, the economic transformation will remain a dream. It’s for citizens to do the needful.

To others, “Recession didn’t just happen. People looted Nigeria into recession. The same people are regrouping for 2023.”

For the rest, for Nigeria to pull itself out of this economic recession, the second in the last 5 years, there’s a compelling need to cut the pork out of the budget and expenditure at all levels of government and redirect the economy from a wasteful consumption-based one to a productive economy.

Like faith which is a belief in things not seen, there are accompanying reasons and ingrained truth in the above arguments.

In the opinion of this piece, one silent point fuelling recession and economic stagnation/retardation in the country is the reality that the managers of our nation’s economy have continued to go against the provisions of the constitutions as an attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into waiting hands of the profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.

While the nation continues to lie prostrate and diminish socially and economically with grinding poverty, the privileged political few continue to flourish in obscene and splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will.

Supporting this assertion is the latest Ibrahim Mo Index of African Governance (IIAG) which reportedly scored Nigeria an embarrassing 26/100 for corruption in state institutions and 25/100 for corruption in public procurement.

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Whilst the report went head to ranks Nigeria 34th out of 54 for overall governance and highlights “increasing deterioration” in the governance of our nation, it pointed plenty of “warning signs” for Nigeria, including the following scores: 21/100 for a functioning criminal justice system (ranking in the lowest-performing quarter of nations); 25/100 for political party financing; 30/100 for disclosure of financial information; 35/100 for law enforcement; 32/100 for equal political power (ranking us 38th out of 54).

Certainly, a striking human tragedy deepened by the awareness that it was avoidable. But more important than all of this regret is the realization of the fact that we were warned with mountains of evidence that recession was coming, yet, our leaders who are never ready to serve or save the citizens ignored the warnings describing it as a prank.

The World Bank gave a forecast that the Nigerian economy will contract by 3.2 per cent in 2020, assuming the spread of COVID-19 is contained by the third quarter. The International Monetary Fund forecast a contraction of 4.3 per cent.

In the same vein, a reputable media organizations in the country in one of its editorial comment early this year drew our attention to the sad reality that Nigeria would be facing another round of fiscal headwinds this year with the mix of $83 billion debt; rising recurrent expenditure; increased cost of debt servicing; sustained fall in revenue; and about $22 billion debt plan waiting for legislative approval.

It may be worse if the anticipated shocks from the global economy, like the Brexit, the United States-China trade war and interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve Bank go awry.

The nation’s debt stock, currently at $83 billion, comes with huge debt service provision in excess of N2.1 trillion in 2019 but set to rise in 2020. This challenge stems from the country’s revenue crisis, which has remained unabating in the last five years, while the borrowings have persisted, an indication that the economy has been primed for recurring tough outcomes, the report concluded.

Similarly, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), a while ago told Nigerians that the nation loses about $4.1 or N123 billion annually due to poor crude oil production metering, stating that unless the government takes appropriate measures, limitations in the metering of crude oil production will continue to pose a serious threat to the nation’s revenue target.

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Regrettably, Nigeria is the only oil-producing country without adequate metering to ascertain the accurate quantity of crude oil produced at any given time, the report concluded.

From the above accounts, we don’t need to be economic buffs to know that a country that services its debt with 50 per cent of its annual revenue has become a high-risk borrower. What the above tells us as a country is that the recession did not take the nation by storm. It announced its coming and we read the signs.

And the nation will continue to have its head stuck in recession mud until leaders recognize that as a nation, our economy is in progressive decay not because of our geographical location or due to absence of mineral/natural resources but because they failed to take decisions that engineer prosperity.

As this piece may not unfold completely the answers to these challenges, there are a few sectors that a nation desirous of development can start from. And the first that comes to mind is the urgent need for diversification of the nation’s revenue sources.  Revenue diversification from what developments experts are saying will provide options for the nation reduce financial risks and increase national economic stability: As a decline in particular revenue source might be offset by an increase in other revenue sources.

In conclusion,, as the nation continues to bear the present challenge, it is important to inform Nigerians who witnessed recessions in 1984 but ignored the lessons to wonder in dilemma, that like every other socioeconomic challenge, corruption and lack of creative leadership that breeds recession will be difficult to fight or meaningful changes implemented on the nation’s political shore when the individuals/institutions who are the cause of the problems in the first place are still around. And attempting to engineer prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problems and politics that keep them going in the writer’s views is unlikely to bear fruits.

Nigerians need initiative and independent minds to do this as we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it.’

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374.

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Feeding the Present and Future Nigerians: The Role of Government, Businesses and Society

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Timi Olubiyi Data-driven Economy

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

Undoubtedly, the demand for more food consumption is the case globally, mainly due to the increasing population year on year.

One of the extreme challenges that Africa faces particularly Nigeria is that of feeding its growing population amidst other perennial issues.

Consequently, this makes hunger, undernutrition, and food insecurity prevalent across the continent despite government agriculture and food business sector supports. Without mincing words, food insecurity might worsen if the population continues to grow and a corresponding reaction to arrest the situation is not in sight.

In Nigeria, each year the country losses and wastes a substantial portion of its total food production which is never preserved despite hunger and undernutrition that exist. One of the key reasons is that food loss and food waste continue to grow without any significant intervention by the government or businesses.

The magnitude of food loss and waste (FLW) is undeniably common and high in the country along the food supply chain, particularly from the North to the South of the country.

The loss and waste problem have been neglected for so long and the last few years have witnessed a consistent increase as a result of heightening insecurity, movement, and transport restrictions due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, street trading, open animal grazing, decrepit infrastructure, illiteracy, inconsistent power supply, environmental pressure, lack of innovation and climate change.

Though food loss and waste are a global problem, it appears it is more prevalent in Nigeria now with the current realities. Therefore, persistent food loss, and food waste amid starvation should not be overlooked, this piece should trigger a wake-up call.

While I agree that both “food waste” and “food loss” signifies the food portion that is wasted and not eaten, the terms are different but often use interchangeably.

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Painfully, both are damaging to the economy, businesses, households, and the well-being of the populace. The fact is food loss and waste are quite different anyway in terms of origin and scope and the true difference lies in exactly where the waste occurs.

According to literature food loss typically takes place at the harvest, storage, transportation, and sometimes at processing, and distribution stages in the food value chain. Staggeringly, in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated to be worth the US $4 billion annually – or enough to feed at least 48 million people, this is a disclosure in a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In my opinion, the large chunk of this may likely be from Nigeria, considering the population and economic size of the country in Africa.

Further findings in the report indicated that some of the leading causes of food loss are poor storage, insecurity, loss during transportation, insufficient and inefficient agro-processing skills among smallholder farming communities, and lack of innovative approach to preservation, and insufficient infrastructure.

It is not out of place to mention that with the current realities particularly with the disruptions occasioned by COVID-19 and increasing insecurity, food waste must have increased exponentially in the last two years. Indicating a major barrier to food security and development in the country and this obviously requires attention.

On the other hand, food waste” refers to the food that is of good quality and fit for consumption, but does not get consumed because it is discarded―either before or after and it is left to spoil. Surveys of families in Lagos State the economic capital of the country to understand the causes of food waste elicited packaging and preservation as a key aspect of the problem. One of the root causes of food waste is a lack of power and some restaurants equally mentioned lack of proper packaging techniques. It was easy to conclude from the survey that food waste occurs at various stages of the supply chain due to a lack of constant power and adequate packaging.

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Though funding and investing in agriculture or the food sector can improve food security and promote sustainability, in my opinion, improved food sufficiency can be achieved by considering the reduction of food loss and food waste. This can be a more effective and cost-saving strategy for a developing economy like Nigeria at this time. Because when food is lost or wasted, all the resources that are used to produce the food, including water, land, power, labour, and capital, are also wasted. So, a reduction in loss or wastage will more than likely reduce wasted resources and increase profits along the food supply chain.

To address this prevailing huge problem, businesses and the government must result in policy responses to enhance storage, cooling technologies, and packaging for the preservation of perishable foods and to lengthen food shelf lives.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to prevent food loss and waste throughout the supply chain, for example, investment can be made in the importation of cooling and refrigerated trucks for transportation of perishable fruit and vegetables. Farm produce such as tomatoes, plantain, or even catfish can be preserved with the cooling system from the farms directly to urban businesses or consumers, thereby reducing food loss and increasing fresh produce availability in the country.

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Furthermore, innovative smart food packaging and smart sensing technologies for monitoring food quality can be also be introduced for the sustainability of high-quality standards and improved product safety.

These are lines of business opportunities for investors to explore or for the attraction of foreign direct investments(FDIs). Sincerely, the government, businesses, and decision-makers need to target investments deliberately in the food supply value chain because opportunities are bound. The government also needs to create incentives to boost efforts to reduce food losses by businesses and smallholder farmers.

In conclusion, no single solution can tackle this whole issue but having an innovative mindset, can get the government, businesses, researchers and the populace started.

In fact, reducing food wastage will strengthen and enhance general food security in the country. Indeed, investments in training, technology, digital agriculture, innovation, and behavioural change are key to reducing food loss and waste. Therefore, innovative initiatives in the agriculture sector should be encouraged because it will create more job opportunities and also improve urban-rural migration, increase food exports, and reduce food imports. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is also a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments

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Christianity, Economics, Politics & Why Education Does not Work

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Education Does not Work

By Nneka Okumazie

There are at least two guarantees of most education – procedure and profile: a procedure that shows how to reach an outcome and a profile that shows that the procedure was passed. There are other possibilities with education, but many get through both destinations and park.

There are lots of places around the world, developed and developing, where people rail about education quality or inefficiency. But, maybe those aren’t the ways to look at education if procedure and profile are achieved.

Looking broadly at education – there are 3 Fs to consider: fiction, fusion and fission.

There are many things anyone can read, learn or be taught but not understand. There are things that are real that can be explained but would seem like fiction to many.

It is possible to explain how telecommunication works to anyone, but many may not get the concept of waves. It is possible to see rockets and explain the science to many but would be too complex to understand.

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There are lots of new technologies, advances that people can be told about and shown, but would remain as fiction to them.

There are people who learn many procedures, get the profile, but remains fiction to them.

Knowledge – in general, is fusion, information coming together to become a unit or adding new units to existing.

Procedures – are a fusion of stuff. Fusion is common, happens often and can be informal.

Fission is the hardest and rarest of education.

Though people have spikes of fission on some aspects of what they have learned at some point, splattering and effervescing of extraordinary magnitude is the origin of major paths of advances through time.

It is true that many advances take years with continuous tests and efforts, but the intellect of fission does much at any time in the process.

Thinking about one thing and having several spectrums of it – towards accuracy is the height of the result of learning that the world needs more of, but gets less and less of.

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Quality of education may guarantee some fission, quality of tutor, sources, or mentor may try, but sometimes, it is either innate or something electrifies at some point.

Intellect fission results in hyper passion, courage, etc. different from those possessing procedural education that have to passion – [positive or negative] or courage – [positive or negative].

There are people with passion against something who don’t know much, only swinging around procedural knowledge.

There are others too, with some courage to hate, for wickedness, greed, factionalism, etc. that have procedural education, but not intellect fission.

They may get information, but they are not the intellect of fission for progress.

So how is intellect fission achieved?

How is it possible to learn something and the immanent mind reams, flips and sprawls it towards what others cannot just see?

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Maybe focus on how fission intellect.

As progress has glided in the world, so have troubles.

There are solutions and answers needed that education of fission would have provided, or education to spark fission.

But because profile education or stage is in demand – there is less and less care for the education of fission.

Many positions are filled with people who have profiles, but unlikely to move anything forward.

Though some curiosity, observation, creativity, analysis, understanding, great memory and insights may be results of some fission – but just like rungs of a ladder, difference abounds per reach and height.

Criticism is mostly a procedure. Deceit is a procedure. Getting rich is mostly procedural as well.

There are many things that are procedures – input and output.

[Proverbs 20:13, Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.]

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Christianity, Government, Ideology, Dumbness & Politics

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Cambodia Tyrant

By Nneka Okumazie

Is falling for false information dumbness or a factor of human limitation? Assuming this, in the most difficult to verify situation suggests human limitation, there are limitless amounts of things that people fall for – signifying dumbness.

It is easy to get people provoked, happy, moody, emotional or whatever expression is desired, by characteristic twists or turns for those outcomes.

It is almost impossible to be smart all the time. It is rare to be smart most times, but it is possible to be dumb most times – with few flashes of smartness.

Dumbness is probably the nucleus of behaviour – with smartness as the shells. Dumbness pulls many but smartness takes work.

Dumbness sometimes is the default of thoughts, sight or other senses. If it appears or speaks like this, it means this; if it acts or moves like that, it is that – without question.

It is far easier to predict that people would be dumb than to predict they’ll be smart. Lots of irrationalities come from dumbness. Deception, though a popular tool, uses dumbness.

It is not often the smart or sensible paths that draw many, but the simple, or feels part. Something can feel so good to taste, smell, or other senses, but does not mean it is good for behaviour, health, etc. Many take the feel-good and damn the consequences.

Something may be so good at present, so easy, so advantageous, so acceptable, but does not mean it is good for the future. Some answers may seem so right, so appraisable but dumb, cheap and impractical.

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It is possible to have gone somewhere to get something at some point, but – would – years on, cause major problems for the people.

There is so much dumb thinking – so much outsourced thinking that turns out to be wrong.

One of the most common spots of dumbness is power. It is often assumed that people in powerful positions manoeuvre to get there and stay there, but predicting the behaviour of the powerful is quite easy because of how power drives dumbness because many assume that just being powerful means smart or better than others – it doesn’t. Ideology can take over power so dumbness can be the leader.

Do whatever you like as long as it does not affect anyone is another dumb statement that does not account for the possibility that private habits can be triggered externally depending on the situation, or say calculation – that assumes it is possible to get away with it, or not get away, but to do it regardless.

In science, evidence determines much. In justice, evidence matters a lot. But some justice failed because the evidence was not presented, or was countered, or ignored not because the crime was not committed. So the supremacy of evidence as the determinant of real true or false – isn’t that smart, it’s just the established rule.

Be careful what you think, or guard thy heart with diligence may seem odd to some, but the heart is the point of pull or plan for most wrongs. Thinking in certain ways is to have done it.

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Selfishness – or the best for one person or group, seems like what is preferred by most, but this classic dumbness becomes a loss, starting from the ones who think it’s of maximum benefit.

The present in all its hardship for many – is a matrix from the past, in how some took to selfishness, for the advantage of the day, to become the loss of the future for things linked to them.

The circuitousness continues.

There is the smart spectrum and there is the dumb spectrum. Some choose or it chooses them. There are those in the dumb spectrum that no knowledge, exposure or information does much to get them away from it. As a fact, as some get more exposed, their dumbness deepens.

Some people often feel others are smart while others feel others are dumb. Smartness or dumbness is not often determined by sides. Most times, dumb people throw dumbness to everyone else, as in the playbook of critics. Criticism – most of the way – is dumbness repackaged and responsibility defenestrated.

Understanding is relevant in how smartness navigates, but dumbness convolves into what many would choose.

Though technology was supposed to make smart, it powered mass social media that lets dumbness go wide. Most people hear, see or read there, they sometimes forget about it, but sometimes end up behaving in ways that express those actions – without tracing it back there.

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Also, most people say stuff as themselves, but often just channelling from that source or acting in ways that blend with what the source would like.

It is important to have internal strength, not just seeking always for the external, but to have this strength to wait a bit or a little, to process things through and properly, before going along the easy, one-way-think option available to all.

Though smartness is far better than dumbness and maybe should not be compared, but smartness at its best is limited. It is possible to be smart, using the information available and be wrong. So even at the peak of smartness, it should be understood that limitations abound.

God is a spirit.

This means God does not exist in the physical or cannot be seen, or instruments used to find distant physical object cannot be used to find heaven or see the Almighty God.

God ways, thoughts and judgement are different.

This means using statements like if God loves why to suffer – isn’t an expression of that understanding.

Genuine Christianity is what Christ wants, but many combine their Christianity with sin and all kinds of acts. Christianity as an ID is not answering the call to be truly born again.

Everyone can be right in their own eyes, but the Creator of the world, Jehovah Almighty knows all.

[Matthew 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.]

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