US President, Harry Truman, once declared famously, “The buck stops on my table”. This is why some people, very few though, appear to think that I am at times too hard on PMB and his government, in my write-ups. No. Far from it. I surely want him to succeed as success itself. Not being a fawning, boot-licking and idol-worshipping member of his party or cabinet (I, in fact, do not belong to, or possess the membership card of any, political party in Nigeria), I can afford to severely critique him, usually with workable options for success. I do this always in the overall interest of beleaguered Nigerians. The reason is simple: PMB’s failure will negatively affect us all, just as his success will positively serve as manure to fertilise the already parched life of Nigerians. It is in this regard that I view the recent release of 21 Chibok girls by the PMB administration, as a big deal and an event worth celebrating, with full adulation and encomium to PMB.
On 14/4/14 (watch the ryme and rhythm), 947 days ago, 276 school girls were kidnapped from Government Secondary School, Chibok, by rampaging Boko Haram terrorists. 79 of these have so far regained freedom, while 197 remain in the cold, grisly gulag of these vampires. I do not, therefore, care about the way, manner and means by which these innocent school children were released to us, whether through swapping, pain staking negotiations, or by payment of huge ransom. It just doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that they have been released. No national sacrifice is too much to appease the insatiable, barbaric bacchanalian and hermetically luciferous propensity of the Boko Haram gods, to effect the safe release of the 276 Chibok girls, even if in tranches and in instalment. The Presidency has strenuously debunked reports making the rounds that it paid ransom for the release of 21 of these girls.
PMB, sir, you should not be apologetic, nor bother yourself to deny this. If ransom is all that is required to bring back our daughters, even if with pregnancies and babies, please, do so sir. Fathers and mothers surely know the mental torture, psychological trauma and spiritual agony they go through where their innocent children are kidnapped under such horrifically gruesome circumstances.
Mr. President has, in this particular instance, unusually risen to the occasion and walked the talk by doing something concrete, far removed from sheer lachrymal effusions and needless buck passing. PMB should, therefore, hold his head ostrich high, bask in the uproarious euphoria presented by this defining moment, seize the tide by the wings and build on it. I am personally enthused and still savouring this historical moment of redemptive national re-awakening. For the traumatised girls, please, pick up the pieces of your nearly wrecked lives and soldier on. God will heal the gaping scars of your wounds.PMB, sir, kudos, and may Allah guide you to refocus and achieve more, henceforth. Amin.
Corruption and misgovernance: Which is worse? (5)
Under “Misgovernance is the worst form of corruption”, we had so far treated Glasnost and Perestroika of Russia, and the “Great Leap” of China, “the Great Depression” and the emergence of “the New Deal”, and how Roosevelt skillfully maneuvered his country out of economic anaemia, with the 1st and 2nd “New Deals”. We have also treated “the Victorian Era” of Britain, the great turn of Soviet Union and had commenced discussion on Europe, which now continues discourse of other climes across the world, to see how national problems were collectively solved by pro-active leaderships under an atmosphere of national cohesion and inclusiveness. We shall thereafter do a comparative analysis between Nigeria and Asian Tigers.
Europe – “The marshall plan”
Third, Western Europe appeared open to influence by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which the United States was beginning to see as its main rival. Fourth, West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany), historically the continent’s industrial hub, had to be rebuilt as a buffer against Soviet expansion; European fears of their World War II foe would lessen only if the Germans were integrated into a larger Europe.
After careful planning, Marshall announced in June, 1947, that if Europe devised a cooperative, long-term rebuilding programme, the United States would provide funds. Britain and France called other Europeans, including the Soviets, together at Paris. When Soviet delegates learned that the United States insisted on their cooperation with the capitalist societies of Western Europe and an open accounting of how funds were used, they left Paris and established their own plan to integrate Communist states in Eastern Europe. An economic curtain divided the continent.
The Congress of the United States appropriated more than $13 billion in aid. Seventy per cent was spent for goods in the United States. The Economic Cooperation Administration distributed the money, and the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) spent it. The largest amounts of money went to Britain, France, Italy and West Germany, in that order.
The programme achieved both its immediate and long-term aims: When the aid ended in 1952, Communist control of Western Europe had been averted, the region’s industrial production stood at 35 per cent above pre-war levels, and West Germany was independent, rearming and economically booming.
In 1961, the OEEC was succeeded by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD broadened the scope of cooperation among member-nations.
The Asian Tigers
The “Asian Tigers’” arrival into the world economy has been remarkably extraordinary. From the traditional “Tigers” (Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore) and then those forming part of the “Tiger Club Economies” (China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines), they have experienced dramatic ground breaking changes over the past 30 years. Their economies have fundamentally changed from traditional agricultural societies, to rapidly growing newly industrialised nations. Their incredible rates of growth were accompanied by fundamentally significant structural changes. In contrast, most of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in general, Nigeria included, have navigated a diametrically opposite negative direction from that of the Asian Tigers.
The Asian Tigers: Who are they?
By the 1980s, the distribution of wealth across the planet was extraordinarily lopsided, with just one fifth of the world’s population (mostly in Western Europe and their descendants in North America and Australia), holding 82 per cent of the world’s wealth. But, from the 1960s, several initially extremely impoverished Asian nations, including South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, attained rapid wealth. By 2009, their quality of life rivaled that of historically rich European nations, such as Germany and Britain.
The term, ‘tiger economy’, has come to define any economy that has experienced, and continues to experience, extensive and rapid economic growth through its trade and industry sectors. According to Investopedia, an economic tiger is a country whose economy has grown and becomes successful very quickly. It is a nickname frequently employed for the economies of Southeast Asia.
The term had emerged in the 1960s during which many of East Asia’s economies experienced spectacular growth, averaging an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6%, or higher. It was discovered that the factors that marked the East Asian economies, as tiger economies included the presence of a large highly educated labour force. Life expectancy was high and the symmetric distribution of land was prevalent; corruption was fiercely tamed and income, relatively equal.
Less stringent policies on credit, and improving the manufacturing and information technology sectors became rife. Markets were massively opened to international trade.
While the Asian nations were advancing their quest for economic prosperity, most African countries languished and luxuriated in regressive corruption and poverty. However, within the last decade, the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa have appreciated in leaps and bounds. Nigeria up to May, 2015, became Africa’s biggest economy and the 25th largest economy in the world in GDP. It has since gone into a strangulating recession under the PMB Government. God help us.
Nigeria vs Asian Tigers: A comparative analysis
Prior to 1999, Nigeria was tottering along in economic stagnancy. Within the last 15 years, however, the size of the economy has expanded and leap-frogged by 89 per cent, becoming the biggest in Africa and was still growing, till only recently. What abracadabra “magical wand” did the Asian Tigers employ?
Factors responsible for growth in the tiger economies
After the Second World War, Asia witnessed the combined efforts of a determined government with the energies of a vibrant private sector. Enormous exports led to globalisation.
Neither South Korea nor Taiwan was richer than Nigeria in the late 1950s. South Korea was mired in political instability, with no industries, having lost all to the more developed North Korea. Taiwan was a predominantly agricultural economy, with sugar and rice as its main exports. Malaysia took her palm kernels from Nigeria, Eastern part, to be specific. In many ways, their transformational strategies to major industrial powers mirrored Japan’s. Their governments were single-mindedly focused on economic growth.
Both countries also possessed an overarching geo-political motive. South Korea needed to grow, so it could counter any possible threats from North Korea. Taiwan, having given up on the idea of re-conquest of mainland China, wanted to forestall any possible challenge from the Communists. The governments in South Korea and Taiwan understood that achieving their political and military goals required rapid economic growth. Developing industrial capabilities and a strong manufactured exports base became their predominant objective by unleashing energies of private business and spirit of entrepreneurship. They removed excessive taxation, red tape, bureaucratic corruption, inadequate infrastructure and high inflation.
Governments gave incentives such as generous subsidies to stimulate investments in modern industries which were designated as “priority sectors”. In South Korea, these took the form of subsidised loans through the banking sector. In Taiwan, they came as tax incentives for investments in designated sectors. In both countries, bureaucrats played the role of midwife to new industries: They coordinated private firms’ investments, supplied the inputs, twisted arms when needed, and provided necessary sweeteners. Neither country exposed its nascent industries to much import competition until well into the 1980s. While they enjoyed protection from international competition, these infant industries were goaded to export almost from day one. In Nigeria, SMEs and infant industries are killed. Those that escape government’s axe men flee into the warm embrace of neighbouring countries.