By Austin Maho PhD
Recently during the inauguration of the National Steering Committee for the Development of Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National Development Plan 2021–2025, Buhari called on the Committe members to pay attention to the Chinese strategy.
“The Chinese experience is an example. It has resulted in lifting over 700 million people out of poverty over the last four decades”. He said.
He noted that China’s track record of positive economic growth, since 1992, was only halted in the first quarter of 2020, due to onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which China has successfully overcomed and now on the path of growth.
According to Buhari, COVID-19 presents the world - and Nigeria - with a crisis as well as an opportunity.
The Chinese have confronted the challenge headlong and also seized the opportunity for economic growth and development.
Evidently, the world and in particular Nigeria has a lot to learn from the Chinese strategy.
As Buhari said, “the current global health and economic crises give us an opportunity to think afresh and chart an optimal path forward” , guided by the Chinese experience”.
As the committee set about its work, guided by the Chinese model perhaps we should ask ourself what is this Chinese model? And how can it be adopted and modified to suit our peculiarities?
In first quarter of 2020 the Chinese economy was in virtual lockdown as a result of COVID-19 which reach its peak by the end of March 2020.
Business and economic activities were major casualties of the coronavirus outbreak with industrial output contracting significantly in the first quarter of 2020.
By the second quarter of 2020 there was a gradual reversal as the unprecedented measures began to pay off and the Chinese economy experienced a rebound.
While the global economy was on a tailspin, reporting negative growth as a result of COVID-19 the Chinese economy was on the path of recovery.
China now seems, on the face of it, to be the first economy to fully recover from COVID-19.
J.P. Morgan recently boosted its 2020 China growth forecast to 2.5% from 1.3% in April. Economists at the World Bank and elsewhere have also upgraded their forecasts for China, the only major economy expected to grow this year. The level of total activity in China is now higher than it was going into the crisis.
Across China, businesses are opening up and social activities are picking up. Children are preparing to return to classrooms.
The remarkable bounce back of economic activities in China while far from China’s heady expansions of double digits in past years, should nonetheless help the world’s No. 2 economy move faster in catching up with the U.S., which is projected to shrink by as much as 8.0% in 2020.
Furthermore the economic rebound of China no doubt projects Beijing’s belief that China’s state-led economic model, which helped the country navigate the 2008-09 financial crisis with minimal pain, is better than the U.S.’s market system, emboldening Chinese leaders at a time of rising geopolitical competition with the U.S.
The rebound of the Chinese economy has also enabled China to come to the aid of the rest of the global community still suffering from Covid-19.
As noted by Chinese president Xi Jinping recently at a ceremony to recognise role models in the fight against COVID-19 epidemic at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, in response to global public health “launched the most intensive and wide-ranging emergency humanitarian assistance since the founding of New China”,
He revealed that between March and September of 2020, China exported 151.5 billion masks, 1.4 billion protective suits, 230 million goggles and 209,000 ventilators to support the global fight against COVID-19.
China also made several donations to the World Health Organization (WHO) and dispatched Chinese medical expert teams to 32 countries.
The remarkable recovery of the Chinese economy from Covid-19 evidently demonstrates the unyielding will of the Chinese people and the resilience of its economy model.
Coming home, Nigeria has a lot to learn from the Chinese growth and recovery strategy.
The Chinese economic model also known as the Beijing Consensus, contributed to China’s “economic miracle” and led to an unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy from the 80s upward.
The Chinese model of economic develipment Is seen as an alternative to the Washington Consensus of market-friendly policies promoted by the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury.
Essentially the Beijing Consensus allows every country to pursue its own development strategies as suits it rather than following the prescription of Western models of unbridled capitalism and free markets.
It legitimizes the notion of particularity as opposed to the universality of a Washington model.
Clearly it is an alternative to the neoliberal Washington Consensus, which itself has become a questionable economic development path.
US president Donald Trump’s fixation with an America first policy is ckearly a repudiation of the Washington Consensus. Multilateralism is giving way to unilateralism and free trade has given way to protectionism.
Trust in the free market for economic growth is currently at its lowest ebb.
These are facts the steering committee should take note of. Nigeria’s economic strategy should be people centred. The task should be poverty reduction and lifting Nigerians bludgeoning poor our of economic quagmire. As the president noted during the inauguration of the committee,
“The main objectives of these successor plans are to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years, particularly given the World Bank’s projection that Nigeria will become the world’s third most populous country by 2050 with over 400 million people,”
If China could lift 700 million out of poverty in two decades it is not an impossible task for Nigeria to achieve the target of lifting 100 million out of poverty by 2030.
This can be achieved through a down to earth, pragmatic commitment to serving the people and putting the right reforms in place.
However we should also keep an eye on our growing population. The projection of the World Bank that Nigeria would become the fourth largest country in the World by 2050 with a population of 400 million people, must be taken as a warning. Measures must be put in place to avoid this projection.
Nigeria’s economic trajectory in the last 60 years of our nationhood has largely followed the prescription of Bretten woods institutions and aping western economic model, which has led us no where.
The Chinese have proven that growth can be achieved through pragmatism and adherence to national peculiarities.
Nigeria at this stage of nationhood must begin to look at its peculiarities and decide on a path that best suit its purpose.