By Dele Sobowale
History does not repeat itself. Man does.” – Prof Barbara Tuchman, Harvard University. One can only hope it is a joke. Even if it is, Nigerians, like Queen Elizabeth I should tell the Buhari administration: “We are not amused.”
Do we embrace China or align with the west? If ever there were scams that have been foisted on Nigerians since the first honest attempt at visioning in 1992, visioning had been it. We are in the final year of the swindle called VISION 2020 promoted by top members of the Ya’Adua/Jonathan administration against advice from your ever faithful UniJankara faculty.
In 2009, Yar’Adua had succumbed to the counsel of the Governor of Central Bank, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State and invested in organising a VISION 2020 COMMITTEE. Their mandate was to present a plan designed to make Nigeria one of the top twenty economies in the world by the year 2020. As we are getting set to start the year, which looked so distant at the time, none of the promoters of the project is talking. At UniJankara, we can proudly tell Nigerians “we told you it was all illusion; it will not happen.”
It is against the background of previous failures that Nigerians must understand why we must reject any attempt to spend our resources on VISION 2040.
We start where we left off in 2009.
Vision 2020 Jamboree—2
“..How long will it take to double one’s investment if it invested to earn 15% per period? ..at 15%, an investment will double in value in just under five years.”
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Neil Harlan, Charles Christenson, Richard F Vancil, in Managerial Economics, p.623.
“I find it ridiculous when people in government begin to talk about VISION 2020 meaning that Nigeria by 2020 will become one of the20 biggest economies in the world. Why do we ridicule ourselves openly like that? Are we going to take the place of Australia, or Israel or New Zealand? It is the most ridiculous type of aspiration I have ever heard in my life. A country which cannot generate power for more than three or four hours daydream of being the 20th biggest economy. It is the craziest kind of concept that I have ever heard,
Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, in THE PUNCH, February 17, 2009.
I will come to Professor Sagay’s patriotic observations later because, in the fight over the fraud called VISION 2020, we must deploy every weapon to stop Yar’Adua and his wasteful advisers from wasting our funds on a worthless project and from wasting a lot of high-level human power on what is at best a quixotic venture. Yar’Adua being by training a chemist, might not know the truth. But Shamsudeen Usman, Professor Chukwumah Soludo, the two Ministers in the Ministry of Finance definitely know the truth. The question is: why do they continue to deceive the president and Nigerians?
Let us start with certain facts of arithmetic which are universal and timeless –the compound interest table.
Harlan, Christenson and Vancil were Professors of Business Administration in the Graduate School of Business of Harvard University and the collaborated to write this book which was widely used for MBA courses in the sixties and early 1970s. I have kept my copy till today even after graduating in 1970 in Boston. At the end of the book, the reader will find several pages of Investment Tables which can also be adapted for use in other forms of economic analysis such as the feasibility or otherwise of VISION 2020 -20.
That excerpt from the book has proved to us that you need five years to double any sum if it grows at a steady rate of 15% per annum. The same table tells us that it will require eleven years of growth at a steady rate of 15 per cent to reach four and a half times the original amount. There is no economist worthy of being called one –except one bent on intellectual fraud who does not know this. Usman, Soludo, Babalola and others in government also know this truth.
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Let us now turn to the questions asked by Professor Sagay and extend them by referring to a table readily available to all these eminent economists as well as anyone able to get on the internet. What we discover are the following facts which the “intellectuals” in Yar’Adua’s government will want us to ignore.
First, the nation currently in the twentieth position is either Switzerland or Indonesia —depending on whose compilation methods are adopted. Those countries boast of GDP that is about four times our own. Our current position is either 41 or 47 or 49. But, even we want to be most charitable to ourselves and take the 41st position as our starting point, the countries we will have to climb over include Poland, Norway, Austria, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Denmark, Iran, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland, Thailand, Finland, Venezuela, Portugal, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Colombia, Pakistan, Israel, Algeria, Phillippines, Singapore, Ukraine and perhaps Algeria.
Our Minister of National Planning, Dr Usman while briefing the members (or captives) of what was called the Business Support Group, BSG, during their inauguration on Monday, February 16, 2009, for the first time acknowledged that 12.5 per cent annual GDP growth will be required to achieve the goal in twelve years. Then he cynically added –” if the other countries standstill”. That was intellectual dishonesty at its worst.
To start with, eleven not twelve years are available because Usman was part of the team which presented the 2009 Budget and he should have remembered that the projected GDP growth rate is 8.2% not 12.5% for this year; 2010 to 2020 we have eleven years. Failure to achieve 12.5 per cent this year already shifts the deadline unless we can grow at more than 12.5% in future years.
Furthermore, while it is realistic to expect one of the countries ahead of us to falter, it is utterly ridiculous to expect over twenty countries to bite the dust in eleven years while we alone grow at astronomic rates. Again, Usman Soludo, Babalola and all the other “financial gurus” know this. And once again the question is: why do they continue to deceive the president that it is possible for twenty or more countries to stand still just so Nigeria can achieve this mirage?
Contrary to the unrealistic expectation that all the countries ahead of us will stand still while we race past them, more serious economic planners must take into account at least three more likely scenarios. First, no single country with a larger GDP than our own got there by accident. Almost in every case, they are ahead because they have worked for their wealth whereas ours had been large “God’s gift”.
As fortune has made our money for us, the misfortune of the combined drop in crude oil prices and shrinking demand are likely to undo us. Israel generates more foreign exchange from agricultural exports than we obtain from crude. It is in a better position to weather the storm because Man must whack as we say in Nigeria.
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Second, every percentage increase of GDP achieved by any of those in front of us shifts the goal post; it will be worse if their GDP growth exceeds our own during the eleven years. Thirdly, for a nation that has never achieved double-digit growth in the past and which managed to secure about six per cent in 2008 and expects 8.2% in 2009, how realistic is it to expect 12.5% from 2010 onwards? And are we likely to obtain the level of investment, which will be double current levels of investments that will be necessary to make it happen?
To be continued