Exit from recession and the gospel according to Lai
Since the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released its second quarter 2017 report which announced that Nigeria has exited from its 13-month recession, the country has been inundated with emergency and pseudo economists who have been busy analyzing and interpreting what it means to be out of recession.
NBS had on September 5 announced that the country’s GDP, after five consecutive quarters of negative growth, has returned a positive growth of 0.55 percent, leading to the country’s exit from recession.
The bureau explained that the economy recovered because of the growth and contribution from some sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, and especially the oil sector.
Expectedly, the emergency economists comprising mostly government officials have been celebrating this landmark development which, they claim, is a result of their visionary leadership and people-focused programmes. For them, it amounts to cleaning the Aegean Stable left behind by “those who were managing the economy before 2015”.
This development has become a gospel and, like Matthew, whose account opens the New Testament in the Bible, the minister for information and culture, Lai Mohammed, was the first to attribute the ‘miracle’ of economic recovery to the ‘magic’ wand of government policy
Coming out from recession, according to the minister, means “the worst is over”. He added, among other things, that what this means also that investors will now be coming into the country to invest and grow the economy further, assuring that government would sustain and build on what it did to get the economy out of recession through sustained policy interventions in various sectors.
As spokesman for a government that, many believe, has dug more holes than it can cover, Lai is entitled to his opinions. He was also expected to say all he said, But that “the worst is over” remains debatable for the ordinary Nigerian on the street who has to daily haggle prices with the trader in the market or for the man or woman who lost his job and may never get it back or get another.
Exit from recession notwithstanding, commodity prices remain relatively high, especially for gari, rice, beans, yam which are all staple food for most Nigerian families. Before 2015 up to the third quarter of 2016 when the economy slipped into recession, a paint can measure of garri was selling for N300-N500.00; a derica (measure) of beans sold for N150-N180; a sizeable tuber of year sold for N400-N600.00 while a bag of rice, depending on brand, sold for N8,000—N9,000.
Today, in spite of the exit from recession, a paint can of garri sells for N800; a derica (measure) of beans is selling for N250-N300; a sizeable tuber of year sells for N1000-N1,200 while a bag of rice, depending on brand, is sold for between N12,000—N15,000.
Similarly, the exchange rate of the naira is at N360 to US$ and even though it is a significant drop from a time in this country when it exchanged at N520 to the US$, it is still well above the average of ‘N199 to the US$ it exchanged before things ‘changed.’
It is amazing how presumptuous our leaders could be when they speak to the people and on issues of the moment. It is always as though everyone else is daft and incapable of seeing through the façade that masks governance in this country.
Nothing could be truer or more incontrovertible than the argument that the economy slipped into recession by the action and inaction of this government. Good enough, some of those actions and inactions are being retraced. So the government should just save us the ego-trip of being experts in economics. If they were that good, the economy would not have gone into recession in the first place.