Fear, loathing and foreign investors.
I find the public appeal via a letter written to President, Muhammadu Buhari, carried in The Guardian on Sunday, of September 4, 2016, on page 38, rather unsettling.
The reason for my unease is that in the middle of an unprecedented balance of payments crisis, the Buhari administration is working very hard to take the necessary counter- cylical measures to contain the crisis and ameliorate its effects on the long suffering Nigerian people.
The crisis was induced by many years of maladministration and a thoroughly irresponsible attitude to the administration of the nation’s public finances. Luckily for the nation, we have in Muhammadu Buhari a patriot who is incorruptible and heaven-sent to clear the mess. This, he is now doing.
It does not however help the president’s valiant efforts, if a perception is sent abroad that the nation is unfair on foreign investors. For what country needs today are long-term foreign investors, who actually invest in projects with long term gestation periods and through that process, create sustainable jobs for Nigerians, rather than ‘hot money’ and fly-by-night portfolio investors.
This is why the case of Zhongfu International Investments FZE (“ZIIN”) should be taken seriously. It is obvious that when they came into the Ogun Guangdong Free Trade Zone in Ogun State as an investor, the zone was devoid of basic infrastructure for industry. But since then, as their petition to the president has shown, they have acted as turn-around artists. Since they entered into a joint venture agreement with the Ogun State government in return for 60% equity contribution, they have invested over $60million and the zone has created over four thousand jobs.
The perception that the operators are now being intimidated to force them to accept the termination of their contract, bodes ill for our economy. A country that is perceived as not respecting the sanctity of contracts cannot be perceived as a safe destination for much needed foreign investments. On the contrary, it makes our economy uncompetitive.
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