Bailout For States: ‘FG Should Relate With Beneficiaries Like IMF’

Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor

Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor

AGAINST the backdrop of the bailout package announced by the Federal Government last Tuesday to assuage the pains of federal, state and local government workers owed several months of unpaid salaries, the government has been advised to ensure that the states would benefit from the package only on meeting some conditionalities to ensure a lasting positive effect on the economy.

In an interview with The Guardian, a development consultant, Dr. Ndi Onuekwusi stressed that while the need for a bailout as an emergency measure cannot be faulted given the suffering of the workers who depend on their salaries for a living, the Federal Government should look at the current state of the country holistically and institute disciplinary measures and conditionalities that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would have introduced had the country borrowed from them.

The bailout package, which was approved by President Muhammdu Buhari, included the sharing of about $2.1 billion (N413.7 billion) between the federal and state governments from the $1.6 billion dividend and $500 million tax paid by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited to the Federal Government and a Central Bank of Nigeria special intervention fund that would offer between N250 billion and N300 billion as a soft loan to enable the states to pay the backlog of salaries.

Onuekwusi insisted that the economic crisis in the country was expected and called for measures that would pull the country out of the woods and place it on the path of development.

“The country is in a state of economic emergency. The bailout is necessary. It is like a dam to hold the water; but we are holding it with the hand. With the Excess Crude Account virtually empty, the next fall back now would be international money lenders like the IMF, which would certainly come with austerity measures and other disciplinary actions, which I am not sure that Nigerians would want to experience again having experienced that in the past. We need to now institute those disciplinary measures and conditionalities that IMF would have introduced had we borrowed from them.

“Let us not go far away; Greece is now trying to put up a new proposal to Europe in order to get more bailout fund as it were. But it calls for discipline. Ireland had gone through that discipline with European money and has become productive again. So, the politicians now have to prepare our minds for some of the austerity measures that need to be undertaken for the country to come out strong from this.

“We need to cut the size of the civil service by 60 per cent. The public service is also over bloated and should be cut by at least 60 per cent. The savings would be used to train the civil servants to be productive. At moment, we are running a social service rather than a public service that is productive. The people who will be re-trained in the new civil service must be re-trained to earn money for themselves because actually, what will make Nigeria a great country is to ensure that every individual is productive,” Onuekwusi said.

He warned that the current effort of granting soft loan to the states to pay arrears of workers’ salaries would come to naught without curbing corruption and impunity and appointing the right people into positions.

He said: “When we talk about corruption, it appears that it is only politicians that are corrupt in this country. But it is not so as corruption permeates every sector of the country. So, there should be a total change of attitude because when you have a proper attitude, you will have commitment and then you will begin to have innovation. There are three things that are important at this stage of our national development — change of attitude, proper commitment to doing the correct thing and then innovation to make the system productive and buoyant. With that, this economy can begin to compete with other growing economies of the world. We have more than enough to be a great country because we have the population to produce for.”

On how the country found itself in the present situation, Onuekwusi said: “The first thing is to recognise that nobody owes Nigeria any favour or a meal for stupidity. If a people do not run their affairs well, no person owes them anything. They will leave with the consequences of their action; how people end up in life depends on what actions they take about their lives. It is irresponsible and may be stupid to want people who have ordered their lives well to keep giving you handouts to survive. So, what are those things that we have not done properly that have put us in this situation?

“Everybody likes to start with corruption in dealing with this issue but corruption is a result of a deeper failing in our society. Therefore, it is this more malignant failure that has made corruption to thrive successfully in our society. You find that there are societies in which it is difficult to be corrupt because the people have a vision of what their society should be.”

He added: “Nigeria has no strategic vision. There is no strategic visioning in Nigeria and the primary business of politicians is to create a strategic vision which they sell to the society and mobilise the people to buy into and share. It is in sharing that strategic vision that one can say ‘this is how Nigeria would be if all of us do what this particular government or party wants us to do.’ There has never been a government in Nigeria that had ever set out a clear strategic vision of what it would want Nigeria to be as a society. That is why the negative emotions of tribe, state, religion and the likes thrive in Nigeria. Having a strategic vision will help us to define what we can do and cannot do as a society.”

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