ursing an economy in recession is one herculean task experts, including those at the nation’s apex bank, dread. The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, must have betrayed this feeling when he vowed recently to “employ every indispensable means, conventional or otherwise”, to help restore economic growth in the country. The urgency of the prevailing situation in the country demands that he goes beyond rhetoric to actually make good this pledge.
As a first step in this regard, he has amended the CBN policy on foreign exchange which now makes it relatively easier for resident Nigerian nationals and companies that bring in foreign currency through the banks and other authorised dealers to now invest such funds in money market instruments, bonds and equities. However, the policy points out that balances on exports domiciliary and ordinary domiciliary accounts are not eligible for such investment. As a first step, we are compelled to say that it is a policy that is headed in the right direction.
The second step in the CBN’s quest to make the Nigerian economy flourish again entails a reduction in the appetite of Nigerians for foreign goods. Obviously, one does not need to be a central banker to feel a sense of revulsion at the ongoing predilection of Nigerians for imported goods and services that are actually readily available in the country. That taste, cultivated over the years, has given rise to worries about the size and structure of the country’s import bills. We argue that at its present levels, it is not only unacceptable but also raises the issue about the nation’s continued dependence on other countries for things that can easily be produced locally.
A way out of this contradiction, in our opinion, is for the bank to insist on attaining an inclusive growth by bolstering local productive capacity and ensuring that Nigeria’s economy is, indeed, self-sufficient in every sense of the word. This will certainly entail well thought out policies. Those policies may not necessarily be populist but must be so streamlined as to reflect the genuine direction the economy must go if the nation must regain her leading role in Africa while at the same time actualising the hopes and aspirations of the people.
We observe that, of late and especially since the coming into power of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, most policies from the apex bank have been greeted with more knocks than kudos. What this means, in our interpretation, is that such policies are well directed. Criticisms of them result from the fact that economic saboteurs will find any attempt to circumvent them really daunting and impenetrable.
But the most important consideration, if we must counsel, involves an unflinching commitment to the course already set out and which must be motivated by the achievability of the desire to strengthen the economic fundamentals. These include a determination to stop importing inessentials like toothpicks, rice, chicken apples, eggs and the like.
Regrettably, the CBN spends close to $2 billion on remittance for school fees to foreign institutions yearly. Such huge money can be used to develop institutions in the country to such a standard that will invariably make it unnecessary for anyone to contemplate sending his ward elsewhere for good quality education. Other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and health can easily benefit from such injection of fund which are otherwise diverted. If these policies are pursued with vigour, the much talked about diversification of the economy away from oil and gas will become even more meaningful. But these are not assignments for the CBN alone. Nigerians, as a people, must eschew arm chair pontifications and join hands collaboratively towards making the economy and the nation well again. That ought to be the New Deal.