ANOTHER FIT OF RANTING AT OFFICIAL INANITIES OF 2008

ULD by ol’Victor Ojelabi

No year had compared with the cataclysmic datelines in economic history since the great depression until the year 2008 came along. Global economic growth had skyrocketed over the last 20 years engendering a new measure of comfort and access to luxury as the population of the wealthy ballooned by the day. By the end of the first quarter of 2008, the stock market in Nigeria and those across the world had recorded mirthful growth, that the Nigerian bourse was rated the highest most profitable stock exchange in terms of returns on investment in the emerging market segment this is just as other investors around the world celebrated returns on their investment.

But by the beginning of the second quarter of the year, economic metrics started showing stressful signs of falling decimals on the statistics of economic performance measurement, this, soon engulfed news emerging from all sectors of the economies across the globe. Nigeria had capitulated even before the formal announcement of the global financial meltdown; the nation’s institutional regulators had frantically talked our stock market into a crisis, obviously, since non of these regulators were instrumental to the buoyancy of activities in the market either by deliberate planning or policy thrusts, they can’t, even up till now, fathom why the market took a dive from pronouncements that they apparently considered innocuous.

It is an enduring hall mark of the profligate characterization of the managements of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange that they still explain away the N3.2trillion lost to investors lose of confidence in the market as mere market correction. These institutions responsible for the state of health of the Nigerian Stock Exchange decidedly got inebriated with the unplanned success of the Exchange and having a lack of the knowledge of the growth trajectory of the Exchange they riotously claimed right of proprietary authority over the Exchange resulting in regulatory agencies brick bats that added to scaring investors in the country: A CBN outlawing margin loans by commercial banks, a SEC increasing by more than 1000 per cent the capital base of stock brokers, and an NSE that encouraged white collar daylight robbery by allowing dead companies to trade and did not see the need to investigate the moribund stocks when their prices galloped into the north by more than 5,000 percentage point. When the reality dawned on gullible investors, the stock market became an atrocious platform for losing money for eternity. Simple, no hope of recovering lost investments.

This is the sorry commentary on the nation’s stock exchange, unfortunately, the larger macro economics is the worst for it. Again, finance ministry officials and their alter egos in the CBN, those, who, up till this moment, cannot provide in logical sequence, reasons crude oil price shot to a high of $148 before its sudden dive for the dirt as last year prepared its curtains down, are busy in reassuring the nation that it would not be affected in the consequence of the global financial meltdown.

In an import dependent country where even toothpicks are imported into the economy, is it not logical that all the malignancies that diseased the exporting economies from which we import our goods and services are certainly imported into the country. The naira had since crashed against the benchmark dollar in the foreign exchange market; crude oil price is yet to settle at its economic natural point on the downward drive in the face of present realities and the nation profiles an infrastructure deficit that threatens to kill off any wealth sustaining or creating initiative. Yet the experts in Abuja talk flippantly of a national economic that can withstand the onslaught of the consequences of the global financial meltdown. Noting can be more rubbish.

It all adds up to a year that once again underscores the deficient capacity for planning and projection by Nigerian officials. If this limitation is restricted to plannessness perhaps we could have found succor in the fact that all the needed to be done to rehabilitate our ramshackle economic thinking space is to provide officials the incentives appropriate to thinking for tomorrow. Unfortunately, this won’t change anything, government officials have turned economic initiatives and policy thrusts into glib political maneuvers as if the business community has become object of conquest. This was very much underscored when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, after denying any inappropriate policy resulting in the crashing naira for upward three weeks was forced to confess to members of the House of Assembly that were concerned enough about the turbulent engagement of the economy that they invited the governor to come and explain the direction of his monetary policies. The Professor of Economics had tongue in cheek told the House of Representatives panel that it was a deliberate policy of the CBN to let the naira depreciate.

Sadly, because Nigerians have become so shell-shocked to inanities of government and its officials nobody picked bones with the CBN Governor. In other more decent climes, the CBN Governor would have been asked to resign his office. Is it not reasonable for the purpose of planning and budgeting both by policy makers in the public and private sectors for the CBN to release a public statement informing the country of the CBN’s intension to allow the naira to depreciate and give a minimum two weeks notice. This would allow decision makers to know to plan and have an implementation procedure in response to the planned currency depreciation.

Rather, the CBN let loose the depreciation as if it was a war strategy on the business community. Really bad. Would things change in 2009? Hardly, despite President Umar Musa YarAdua’s commitment to realizing the potential of Nigeria in the New Year through the empanelling of a new federal cabinet, the fact of the matter is simply about lack of quality consciousness and sense of responsibility of government officials to Nigerians and project Nigeria. When other countries are engaged in strenuous efforts to rescue their economies, there is no outward sign by government in Nigeria of a serious effort to salvage an economy that may be inexorably headed for the sewage.

As published in the January 11th Edition, Issue 49, Vol 1.

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