It’s the start of a new year, and taking a leaf out of the books of our many men of God, I’m dedicating this week to making my predictions for 2016. I can’t claim to be drawing from divine guidance, however. These predictions are just the result of educated guesses. Here are my first four.
1. It’s going to be a tough year.
So, this doesn’t count, since the President and Minister of Finance have said as much. I am simply starting here to put on record the premise of my predictions. Which is simply this: we have a president that doesn’t send. He said ‘change,’ and once we agreed by voting for him, he has set off. Nigerians will groan and cry but so long as he is confident about the course he has set the country on, he will not be the first to blink.
2. There will be general downsizing across the society.
I read a blog post by Ahmed Salkida yesterday. He is the courageous journalist who having gained access to the inner circle of the sect known as Boko Haram was mistaken for a sympathiser and harassed out of the country by Nigeria’s security operatives. He now lives in Dubai. In this blog post, he was lamenting that his middle-man business was grinding to a halt due to his inability to remit money he had earned from supplying goods to clients in Nigeria. His problem was echoed during the Presidential Media Chat held at the end of December when Kayode Akintomide of Channels Television informed the President that many Nigerians were experiencing restrictions in accessing their domiciliary accounts.
From what I can gather, the challenges people like Salkida are facing are tied to the course the President has chosen, which aims to return Nigeria to a producing economy as opposed to a trading one. The former earns foreign exchange whereas the latter spends it. Every country has sectors that earn and sectors that spend. Nigeria’s problem is that it came to rely almost exclusively on the petroleum sector to earn hard currency and since the oil price plummeted in 2015, and seems likely to drop even further once oil exports from Iran and the U.S. come onto the world market, our single source is drying up. The solution the President is pursuing is to resuscitate old sources or bring on line new ones to balance the shortfall.
Entrepreneurs like Salkida are to be made to see where to focus their energy. In order that the signal be clear, it becomes necessary to close off non-productive options. There’s nothing wrong with buying goods from Dubai to sell in Nigeria and remitting the profits to Dubai in and of itself. However, when most entrepreneurs choose trading over production, it becomes a problem at this time because remitting profits places demands on the dollars in the treasury, which are low because of the oil price fall. The banks also have to be motivated to invest in these new areas of production. Stopping COT fees that brought in 100 billion naira to the banks every year forces them to apply themselves to what ought to be their primary activity – lending money to enterprises, investing in the real economy.
3. Crime will shoot through the roof.
Everyone knows that Nigerians are industrious and hardworking. Analysis of U.S. census data indicated that Nigerians were among the most highly educated immigrant communities there. One problem some of us have is that when things get rough, we tend to look for an easy out, whether it is criminal or not.
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