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Osinbajo on a needless jamboree

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By Dele Sobowale

Osinbajo leads investment roadshow in US —News report, July 9, 2018.

THE report quoted the Vice President’s spokesman, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Laolu Akande, as saying that “the roadshow is designed to showcase the continued improvement in Nigeria’s business environment to entrepreneurs, investors in American cities.” If you believe that you will believe anything. The Vice President of Nigeria is embarking on a needless jamboree.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN

The only beneficiaries will be those collecting estacodes to go on that trip. The improvements in Nigeria business environment are purely figments of the VP’s imagination given what global economic and financial experts have to say about economic management under Buhari.

To begin with, the VP had set out on his sight-seeing tour of America, disguised as “investment roadshow” a few weeks after Nigeria had grabbed the title of the country with the largest number of poor people with 87 million Nigerians expected to be living below the poverty line by December of this year. Investors in the US might be eager to seek business opportunities in Africa’s largest country. But, they are no morons. They know that a country whose people are getting poorer every minute is one in which disposable income is also falling per capita. That is not exactly the best destination for their investments.

They can also discover from the dispatches from their Embassy in Nigeria that most, if not all, major manufacturers and service providers in Nigeria are struggling to keep afloat at the moment in the country. That is not the right sort of incentive to attract investments. There are other impediments in the way of getting American investments to come to Nigeria at this time. A few will be sufficient to illustrate the point.

First, is politics; with the country facing a crucial election next year and the ruling party as well as the main opposition in disarray, only the worst gambler would venture into Nigeria at this time. It is obviously more prudent to wait for the country to sort itself out before making any move – if at all. Even the VP who led the delegation to talk with the American investors cannot guarantee he will be in office this time next year; neither can the promises made to investors be assumed to be binding on his government’s successors. Even Nigerian investors are already reluctant to commit themselves to long term investments at this time. Why expect foreigners to be so foolhardy?

Several economic policy inconsistencies characterize the Nigerian economic management which have the total effect of making planning for more than a few months hazardous at best and worthless at worst. Every developed and developing economy has at least managed to get one thing right. Domestic and foreign investors know when the budget for each year will be passed and it will be a complete document including the fiscal and monetary policies in one package.

By contrast, a national daily newspaper report on June 18, 2018 had this to say about Nigeria’s record on annual budgets. “According to data obtained from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, FRC, 2016 annual report and audited accounts, from 2011 to 2017, the time of approvals of budgets is well into the new year. The earliest was that of 2013 which was submitted to the National Assembly on October 10, 2012 and assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan on February 26, 2013, indicating a five months time lag.”

As Osinbajo embarked on his jamboree, his hosts in the USA would have been briefed that the 2018 Budget was submitted to the National Assembly in early November of 2017 and was signed into law by President Buhari on June 20, 2018 – almost eight months time lag. American investors will be polite; but deep inside they will wonder if they can trust their hard-earned funds to the jokers who have come asking for them to open their wallets. Certainly, a government which has no regard for time, a valuable economic resource, can have no respect for anything else economic.

The Chartered Institute of Bankers in another report on July 2, 2018, accused the Federal Government of “being slow in tackling economic hurdles”. The reason for tardiness is well-known to all the stakeholders in the global investment community. The CEO of Nigeria Plc is slow to understand economic issues on account of poor education; and slower still to decide what decisions to take. Syndicated columnist, Sonala Olumhense described him as someone who takes ten minutes to count from one to ten. In a world in which fortunes can be made or lost in a few minutes, having at the helms of affairs of national economic policy decisions someone thinking at snail speed is a distinct liability which VP’s trip will not obliterate in the US.

Finally, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, ageless Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, also declared in a published interview on July 1, 2018 that “Nigeria’s economic blueprint isn’t clear on employment generation”. Ever the diplomat, Oshinowo was charitable. The truth is, the FG and Osinbajo’s Economic Management Team, EMT, has no economic blueprint. They are operating ad hoc economic policy. The Americans call it “flying by the seat of their pants (trousers). Nothing useful will come out of the trip.

LAST LINE: Happy jamboree Mr VP. We understand the need to enjoy yourself while the opportunity presents itself.

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