The International Organisation for Economic Development (IOED), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN), has said that the slash in the 2015 budget by the Federal Government by N235 billion is clearly indicative of imminent economically tough times.
While also predicting a crash of the United States dollar, the Vice President of IOED, Dr. Fatimah Tagwai Aji, a medical practitioner-turned-chartered accountant, said there would be an avalanche of imbalances when the dollar eventually collapses.
Reacting to the slash in the 2015 budget in an online interview with Newswatch Times over the weekend, the envoy noted: “This is a very worrisome trend for the Nigerian economy. Unfortunately, it caught Nigeria off-guard, which ought not to be.”
Dr. Fatimah Aji maintained that many Nigerians are lazy; adding that the laziness had nothing to do with intellect, but a case of being myopic. She said: “One of our problems in Nigeria is that we have not been strategic and corporate enough. There has been a lot of inferences that we are going through now. We are lazy, though not intellectually; it is a case of functional myopia. Certainly, the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy has been doing a great job. Unfortunately, it seems most of our lethargy has been beclouded by failure to look at economic issues with long-term lens.
“The slash in the (2015) budget implies that the coming year will be tough. Even then, the silver lining is that we are fortunate that it is happening before the commencement of our accounting year. It is simply for us to revise and look at the essential ingredients. This ought to have been anticipated the moment America indicated disinterest in buying our crude oil, and their Shale Oil went into full swing. Unfortunately, there are some of these issues I am not at liberty to enunciate here,” she said.
On Nigeria’s overdependence on oil, even with the existence of other mineral resources in abundance all over the country, Aji said, “The overdependence on oil is uncalled for. The oil has made us economically and intellectually lazy. Now, we are compelled to look at every detail in a more focused and multi-disciplinary way. I have been monitoring developments of our economy, and I have noted that we have many experts. Perhaps it is a disadvantage that we are blessed with too many proven experts and intellectuals. I have been reading the contributions of one of my colleagues, where he stressed the need for us to diversify, even in the oil and energy sectors. But we are unnecessarily prone to making politics out of every issue. There are some issues that ought to unite the citizens, without Nigerians allowing any shred of gulf whatsoever.
“As a player in the global oil cum economic sectors, I am certain we will come out of this, but this is the time to diversify. Fortunately, we are doing a lot of that in the agricultural, solid minerals and some other sectors. Yes, the prices will soon swing up. It is a good thing that we have an Excess Crude Account and we have the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
“Nigeria has planned well for the rainy day, but we ought to have done far more. There will soon be an avalanche of imbalances when the dollar eventually crashes, which is imminent. Luckily, I guess we have “de-dollarised” our economy to some extent. A colleague recently spoke on the need for Nigeria to apply to be part of the BRIC nations, since we are the largest economy in Africa. We can address this when we are ready for the visitation.”
Commenting on the performance of the Minister of Finance so far, the envoy said: “Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla is a fine and seasoned professional, who has proven her mettle globally. She is doing a great job. But don’t forget that she is not a politician, but a technocrat. I know it is a bad kettle of fish for her to be mixing up with the puerile political class in Nigeria. I honestly don’t know how she has been able to survive it this long.”
She continued: “One of the other problems we must address is the large bureaucracy we have built up in the country, the primitive, large recurrent expenditure we are running and the prevalence of corruption, among others. In a good country, the lady would have been celebrated by now. She introduced the MTEF (Medium Term Expenditure Framework) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). This will solve most of the problems we have in the country. From empirical evidence of what is on ground, the lady has done a good sensitivity analysis of the economy.
“The Finance Minister, through the various measures she has introduced, has laid the foundation for us to start looking at structures and long-term perspectives, which will augur well for the country. So, it doesn’t matter which party is in government once we build our economy around structures. It is time to depart from building our economy around individuals. The world economy now is one that is holistically and synergistically linked.
She also insisted that the foundation for diversification of the economy had been laid. “Now, we must ensure that economic issues unite everyone in the country. Our sense of patriotism now ought to be sharpened, better than the lukewarm sense we have now. I am tempted to think that we are critical of the government because of the marginalisation, poverty and injustice. The government should redress this, and start looking at issues from an objective stand-point. We cannot make rational decisions when we are captivated by sentiments.”