THE year 2018 has begun with the usual high expectations that accompany each new year and the compulsory post mortem of activities of the preceding year – usually undertaken by concerned minds. Both pundits and callows engage in predictions spurred by observable phenomena from past experiences and how they may likely affect the current and future affairs.
By Kingsley Ugwu
Many experts are not in a hurry, this time with their forecasts, given the veracity of vicissitudes that characterized the Nigerian polity in 2017 but her economic adventures hold great attraction for discuss in many ways.
First, it was a year uncertainties has largely prevailed. Crude oil, Nigeria’s major earning source continued on its low level run staying at US $ 49.26 per- barrel at the beginning of January 2017, sparking fears of truncating budget within the year; a budget primed after server public flak due to its observable heavy padding second, as these factors continued their inter-play, inflation rate took a firm grip on double digits: hanging on 18.98 percent to 17.26 in the first quarter (Q1) of 2017, but reducing to 16. 44 and 16.01 percent in the last quarter of the year according to CBN data.
Much as this economic conundrum reigned, information from the presidency kept assuring citizens of a sliver lining behind the cloudy sky.
How long the cascading gloom was poised to last was a puzzle that further got compounded with the near incapacitation of President Buhari at some point due to ill-health.
The sudden departure of the president on May7, 2017, two months after his first fifty days stay in London, which took effect on January 18, 2017 on the same medical condition triggered unusual anxieties across all fronts of the country’s sphere as days ran into weeks, weeks, into months with on convincing reports on his state of health to the citizens. Speculation reigned supreme, and all manners of information spread to the threat of national unity and development. For one hundred and four days, national’s affairs were tinkered by proxies, until August 19, 2017, when he eventually returned. Good enough, some of these presidents’s team acquitted themselves well to contain both the polity and economy from irredeemable slide.
Undeterred with the magnitude of challenges confronting the country at the, time ,Nigeria under the AG President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was able to evolve from turbulent economic situation that impacted on her currency (Naira) unfancy level at the foreign exchange arena and affecting its purchasing power significantly even at the domestic front.
The first quarter of the year saw the Naira crawl back from continued slide inherited from 2016, for as much as N560 to US&1, to a significant appreciation, exchanging the same dollar at the rate of N313 at the inter-bank market. Since then, it has steadied its recovery to stay N306 at the inter-bank market and N320 at the parallel market within the last quarter of 2017 but lost points in the final days of the year (December), hitting N385 at the parallel market as January 2018, takes off.
Again according to National Bureau of Statistics report , GDP growth in Q1(first quarter) shrank by 0.5 percent it returned to growth in (2nd quarter) with marginal 0.55 and by the end of the Q4 (fourth quarter), it has cumulatively gathered 405. 10 points recording 8.97 percent expansion, a strong indication of a move away from recession level January 2017 started with 1.44 percent annual growth in many years count.
Further, Inter- bank liquidity grew substantially within the time, while interest rate remained highly controlled ; CBN has continued to hold it down at 14 percent- a level believed to be high, but good enough to raise hopes for better and more financially friendly economy if the momentum is sustained.
January 2017 started with 0.17 percent increase in inflation rate, standing at 18.72 percent at the beginning of the year 2017 according to Consumer Price Index report, thereby, casting dark clouds on the financial outlook of 2017, already burdened by recession.
Interestingly, Nigeria got off the recession zone just within the Q2 of 2017 according NBS statistics. This is no-mean achievement by Buhari Administration, given the high expectations of citizens from his government at the on-set and how these expectations have suffered setbacks in preceding year ( 2016).
Coming back president from his foreign medical treatment fitter and determined,expectations were life on how he tackles contentious issues his health status has raised on the economy.
This is more urgent given the hard times citizens still experience, not minding that recession is said to be over.
According to an Onitsha based business man, Mr Hygienus Okeke “Many are still trapped in the burden of recession. Comparing this period and same time last year, one can say there is improvement. There is a gradual movement from hopelessness to slim belief that things are on the turnaround for the better. But it is only a gainer of hope. crude oil price has rise above us $ 70 per barrel for the first time in four years. this January. it is a good sign, but the shock of December fuel price rise is still impacting on commodity prices as it stands now.
People are daily losing hope of getting their basic needs in the country today, let alone other wants. It is regrettable that event at such a high profile festive period like Christmas, including Sallah, people struggle to merely put patchy meals on their tables. This is not what the Nigerian situation should be. Leaders should sit up and amend all the misdeeds that led to the present situation. I will not forgot to thank the government for the observable positive changes no matter how marginal. If you compare commodity prices between last December and now you will appreciate the effort a bit. A bag of 50kg foreign rice for instance hovered around N23000 to N26000, to N20, 000. It is a good development, but definitely not the best that the government can offer. People need food, people need shelter, people need good life, but these things are unaffordable to many Nigerians at the moment. It’s pity”
Experts foresee a tougher year ahead, given that manufacturing sector has not had substantial practical growth. The lull in this sector had spiraled into persistent massive unemployment rate in the system. The Agricultural sector a proven strong economic base of the country, and a sector capable of absorbing great chunk of the unemployment ratio could only contribute N5185365.99 to the overall Gross Domestic Product of the nation as at Last Quarter of 2017- a situation considered a great leap from the past record that show N2594759.86 in 2016, Q1.
If substantial growth is to be achieved in 2018, result oriented policies must anchor the direction of the country’s progression.
Aside from Agro revolution, road infrastructure should as a matter of urgency be embarked on to open up inaccessible productive areas and reduce losses associated with poor road networks in the country.
Federal government roads could be said to be the worst hit in this decay. Economic activities in the South East remain a nightmare due to near collapsed federal roads the despite huge potential derivable from the area.
The true economic waste arising from this situation to the nation can only be quantified when political and ethnic driven sentiments are substituted with patriotic spirit.
Reports so far credit FG with allocation of N3bn for rehabilitation of East-West federal roads, the worth of this can only be measured with effectiveness road transportation could be carried out in the affected roads in the coming year or years, than lip service that translates to nothing in the lives of average Nigerians. Agro- products originating from the North should get to East and West with ease as well East or West should have unfettered access to the rest of the regions with the best of comfort.
Changing the economic state of the country requires holistic and persistent systemic approach. Citizen’s welfare needs to be the bedrock of the policy thrust. The growing poverty cutting across greater of number populace should be relieved and proactive measure toward arresting it be evolved.
This is important given that efforts of the government are usually subsumed by the overall poverty and stress- filled life of her citizens of late.
For Nigeria to exit recession in appreciable time calls for commendation, but grudges arising from unfulfilled promises and goals on the part of the populace are overwhelming.