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TUESDAY COLUMN

Higher Wages, A Boost To The Economy

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The raise in minimum wage is a worthy step in the right direction. It is one of those long awaited steps that must be seen as a plus for the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration and the current leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Even though it is long overdue, it is definitely a move in the right direction. You cannot increase productivity if you do not improve both wages and purchasing power. If people have no money to buy products or services, whom will the producer sell to? That is why the raise is so foundational to the revitalization of the nation’s doddering and staggering economy.

The economics of the wage increase and its necessity is actually commonsensical. Social Economics is not one of those subjects that you must necessarily go to school or be literate to grasp. If it was so difficult, how come our grannies and uncles in the villages are so successful at both production and marketing? As a matter of fact, more than 80 per cent of the production in this country is in the hands of barely literate people working and producing in every single village and cranny across this country.

It is not from my mouth that you will hear that cities and city dwellers are merely parasitic consumers who despite their education tend to produce nothing of worth. Indeed, they the elite are a burden on the backs of the village man and woman. It is the elite who make laws that cripple the already suffering rural based producers. It is the elite that consume in their cities the power that the villager desperately needs to power his agro processing and production. It is the elite that build smooth roads in cities, yet they neglect the much needed rural roads that would enhance the agricultural capacity of the hinterland while reducing produce wastages.

Whenever I pass through rural corners of this country, I realise that the elite need a crash course in economics, just as they need readings in civics and social morality. If the elite were knowledgeable of elementary public economics, how can they construct a wage system that allows the parasitic political elements to earn the most while the burden bearers earn the least? Doctors and other trained personnel are fleeing the country on account of poor wages and inhumane working conditions. Our young are risking the deserts in search of economic succour and refuge. Yet they who rule have no clue that the single force propelling the shame of our country is one. It is low, abysmal wages..

How can a country pay workers so low a wage that even a single man or woman cannot survive on that talk less of a family? How can our nation pay a wage so low that a man’s monthly wage does not cover his transportation to and from work? How can we not know that the average Nigerian earns so little that most are forced to live in homes without toilets and without adequate ventilation. Many of the decent people you see on the streets live in hovels and ‘lungus,’ not because they choose to but because their very poor wages cannot allow them to live better.

Low wages is the bane of good education, low wages is the bane of good health, low wages is the cause of both low human productivity and the cause of abysmally low industrial and economic production. The health workers are leaving the land because their wages are too low. Those in private practice cannot fund the kind of clinics they would love to have because the patients are too poor to pay for sophisticated modern treatments. For instance, laser surgeries start from N1million, how many wage earners can afford that? Local production is deeply affected by this low wages syndrome too.

What kind of goods can be produced for the consumption of people who earn $50 a month as minimum wage? Bear in mind that most industrial machineries and equipment are imported so no producer can sustain a business where the buyer is too impoverished to purchase anything. This is the very reason why high wages are so important in countries whose leaders understand public finance. No economy can thrive where about 80 per cent of the citizenry, are officially classified as poor. It makes economic sense to raise wages in such a way that the purchasing power of society can in turn sustain production, sustain good education and sustain sound health care. Even elementary study of public finance will show that low wages lead ultimately to economic depression and its attendant economic consequences and maladies.

It is therefore sound economics to speedily raise workers’ wages across the spectrum of the economy. This nation can afford it and this nation needs it. The arguments that raising worker wages will cause inflation are hollow. If the billions that the elite steal every year through their own stupendously high wages did not bring about inflation, why would paying higher wages to the citizenry cause worrisome inflation? As everyone knows, the fall in the value of the naira had already so weakened the purchasing power of the average citizen that the increase would be merely an effort to return the purchasing power of the worker, a purchasing power that had since fallen with the fall in naira value.

The ruling elite is keeping the citizenry in poverty through low wages, an agenda which indeed makes no economic or social sense whatsoever. The way to go is a graded increase in wages through such mechanism as school fees allowances, healthcare allowances etc. With the raise in wages, the largely informal economy of this nation can now be successfully reflated.

Last But Not Least. Peace making is everyone’s duty and effort.  Peace is like clapping. You cannot clap with one hand. Grazing cows on a farmer’s crops is not peace building, cow rustling is not peace building either. Banditry is not peace building, poverty is also not peace making. To have peace all parties must contribute to the building of peace through mutual respect of each other’s rights, cultures and norms. This column supports all efforts geared towards returning peace and security all over the country.

–Aluta Continua


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