Prof Rotimi Jaiyesimi
THE CALL FOR THE DEVALUATION OF THE NAIRA and THE IMPACT ON HEALTH - WHERE ARE OUR ECONOMISTS?
This page tries to stay within health matters. However, one cannot hide the fact that the economic status of a nation will affect its health sector. Yes, the economy is in bad shape, no thanks to those who milked Nigeria dry rather than invest in the nation. Yes, Nigeria has been too dependent on oil.
The West (USA) has come again, calling for a devaluation of the Naira and I commend the current government for resisting this. We are a country that imports most things. What is the benefit of devaluing our currency? How will we service our foreign debt? Why does the West want China to revalue its currency upwards rather than devalue it? I remember the effect of the Structural Adjustment Programme - we still suffer from its effect. I am not an Economist, but a Naira currency that is devalued favours our trading partners. The naira used to be one naira to one pound and it has never returned to that position. We now talk of 400 naira to the pound.
Who benefits? The Chinese are smiling to the banks. Where are our engineers? Where is the quality assurance in what they do? Indian doctors are being advertised on Nigerian radio stations as preferred choices to Nigerian doctors. For obvious reasons I must say. Please do not get me wrong - there are good Nigerians, and I am proud of Nigerians but the handful of bad ones have placed us in this pitiful state.
Our oil is one of the best in the world and has been described as one of the primary sources of “sweet crude” oil grades that is relatively pure crude oil with low levels of sulfuric content. Who does it favour to buy our oil cheap? It has been reported that following Nigeria’s refusal to devalue its currency (the naira), in-line with IMF recommendations, crude oil traders worldwide have begun to shun Nigerian crude oil over the last several months. Self-interest?
Cuba and certain countries have had long-term trade sanctions placed on them. Yes, life was tough but they survived. Nigerians need to brace up for tight times ahead. We all have contributed to where we are for we celebrated mediocracy and corrupt leaders.
I remember a renowned Nigerian Economist (Late Professor Sam Aluko) call for a Value Added Tax. He was vilified. It was named 'Value Aluko Tax'. It is this tax that now generates income for states. The IMF has stated that Nigeria's VAT is one of the lowest in Africa and should be raised. A reasonable suggestion as the income will help generate and run projects internally.
I am not an Economist but this page calls on Nigerian Economists and Financial Analysts to come to the table and produce a plan for the Nigerian economy. Personal holders of oil blocks, foreign oil companies, and local businesses should pay the appropriate tax. Private mineral explorers are smiling to the bank. The minerals belong to the Nation. Those who have carted away Nigeria's money irrespective of party affiliation must be held accountable.
The rot does not lie with politicians alone. Civil servants, professionals, the police, military, educationists, etc and the common man have been accomplices to where we are, Umaru Dikko, decades ago, said we should not complain because Nigerians had not started eating out of rubbish bins. We have allowed those in privileged positions to misappropriate the Nation's resources. We need to rid ourselves of corruption (or stealing) and enshrine political stability in the country for the economy to grow and to attract foreign direct investment. This provides a source of foreign capital and increased revenue.
Let us get back to tilling our land, and cutting our coat according to our income. There are tough times ahead. There is no free lunch and Greek gifts have strings attached. We do not need the West or East to dictate to us. Let Nigerian economists, strategists, financial analysts and politicians step in and come up with a solution. We need to produce and manufacture our needs internally and aim to be an exporting country. These do not materialise overnight, but let us make a genuine start.
A devalued naira will affect the health of Nigerians. Over to our economists – the answer is not blowing in the wind but within what you can come up with.