Sometimes our problems look easy. Sometimes they look really complicated. Whatever angle we choose to look at our problems from, we must face up to them because they won’t go away just because we wish them to go. Sure, we can pray and decree them to move somewhere else. But what if they don’t? Shouldn’t that tell us that we are either praying amiss or we need to do something extra? Well, from where I’m sitting, all I hear is plenty of talk, plenty of English. I see people sounding off, people armed with a big folder of phraseologies and they are throwing them at us one per week. We must give it to them, they know what they are talking about but we don’t. Maybe they even think what they know will fix us but we don’t. Maybe they even mean well, but we are not well.
We need fixing. We need to hear things we can relate to. Nigerians need to be able to see what our handlers say they see. And we can understand that the shore may be far far away but we need to see the straws, even if that is all we are grabbing at right now, because if we see the straws, we can grab at them. If there is something to hold on to, we will stay afloat. If we can stay afloat a little bit longer, the chance that a rescue boat will get to us is more. If a rescue boat gets to us, we are likely to get to the shore. But we need a rescue boat.
Yes, we are a strong and resilient people but we have been adrift, lost at sea for so long and weak, swimming ashore is not an option. If something concrete is not done now, we are going to drown. It is as simple as that. So, telling us we are technically or officially weak does not mean a thing. We are cold, shivering. We can no longer feel our legs, our arms are flailing. We can no longer pretend that all is well because apart from our faith, we’ve got nothing left. So, is someone going to throw us a lifeline or not?
I don’t know if you are as tired as I am of the technicalities we hear from Abuja but I’m done with all the big big grammar, dogon turenci. They have not brought down the price of bag of rice or affected the price of fish. And we need fish and rice. We need to start seeing change. It will also do a lot for the reputation of our leaders if things starts improving. We will start believing them. We will start respecting their decisions. Right now, those who are not doubting that the people in Abuja went to school are thinking that there is no point going to school if what we have now is all there is to getting big big degrees. So, can we begin to do something tangible and slow down on the power points and fancy words? Thank you.
Let’s start with the businesses that are choking. What do the manufacturers want? They want forex. Who’s supposed to give them forex, dollars, pounds? The Central Bank of Nigeria. Does the CBN have forex? No. So, it cannot give what it does not have. The businesses continue to choke. They cannot even hear the big big terms we are speaking in their ears. Where will we find ‘foreign money’ if not from ‘foreign people’?
So we go after them and they seem enthusiastic. They see prospects but they warn us that they do not do any kind of dance with their money, yoyo dance or ‘ijo yoyo’. They want stability. They don’t want policies that change like the British weather. We said, cool, we are also a serious people fallen on hard times. We offered them 14% interest rate. They would have wanted more but we pointed in the direction of the choking businesses who are now coughing furiously, tears pouring down their faces. They kept a straight cold face. Cold, heartless people, we said under our breath, but we kept our confident smile in place even though it was hurting. But that was the harsh fact, these people are not running NGOs. They are in business for profit. Chesty coughs and teary eyes don’t make them change their minds.
To convince the foreign business men to bring their dollars and pounds and yen, they need concrete proof that they will make more money than they are bringing in. They do not want to know if you are technically or officially in recession. They need to see and touch the gauge of their profit, which right now is 14%.
According to the Monetary Policy Committee, total foreign exchange inflows through the CBN increased by 89.14 per cent, from US$1,092.21 million recorded in July to US$2,065.79 million in August 2016. This increase was due mainly to receipts of foreign flows within the month. The meaning of that is the foreign investors are happy with their investment and may even bring more. It also means that we can build confidence in the economy as words go round in the international business community that there is money to be made in Nigeria.
But what about the difficulty 14% interest rate poses to the local businessman? Hmmm, isn’t there a difference in monetary and fiscal choices and the people who are responsible for making them? I think so. The job of the CBN is to ensure inflow into the economy. It is another set of people’s jobs to ensure credit growth, stimulate consumption and generally encourage every sector to do more and spend more. Here’s how the MPC explained it.
‘The MPC considered the numerous analysis and calls for rates reduction but came to the conclusion that the greatest challenge to the economy today remains incomplete fiscal reforms which raise costs, risks and uncertainty. The calls came mainly from the belief that reducing interest rates will spur credit growth, not only in the private sector but also by the public sector, which will help provide liquidity to stimulate consumption and investment spending. The Committee was of the view that in the past, the MPC had cut rates to achieve the above objectives; but found that rather than deploy the available liquidity to provide credit to agriculture and manufacturing sectors, the rate cuts provided opportunities for lending to traders who deployed the same liquidity in putting pressure on the foreign exchange market which had limited supply, thus pushing up the exchange rate.’
Did you see what I saw, or as Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe alias 4.30 of the New Masquerade would put it ‘are you see what I’m saw?’ In the past, when the interest rates were reduced to help liquidity flow, the banks took the liquid and deployed it to what helped their bottom lines. And that took us nowhere. The foreign investors watched from a safe distance and kept their forex far away from us. The farmers and manufacturers still got left in the lurch. Only the banks smiled to the bank. Please note the pun. The issue now is how the whole nation can smile and keep smiling. My suggestion: let all those using official cars fueled by the Federal Republic do what they need to do.
Reducing interest rate without corresponding efforts to boost industrial output by taking steps to grow the real sectors will not reduce unemployment. If job cuts and job losses continue because we are speaking English and throwing Harvard University phrases at our problems, landlords will keep jogging straight into the arm of kidnappers and more farmers will be abducted by those who think there is more money to be made kidnapping farmer than in farming itself.
In all, we need something to hold on to while we wait for the rescue boat and these foreign investors’ hard currency is a good anchor to start with.