Chasing shadows in pretense of foreign investment

As part of his speech at the Honorary International Investors’ Council meeting, President Goodluck Jonathan said, ‘’To be competitive, we must address long-standing issues and introduce bold and courageous reforms, regardless of (any) short-term political pressure. This is why my government has remained steadfast in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business.’’

From this statement, President Jonathan should have been insinuating that the September 4, 2013 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum for 2013-2014, which ranked Nigeria 120th out of 148 countries ranked in the Global Competitiveness Index, including regional economies such as Mauritius 45th; South Africa 53rd; and Kenya 96th, was wrong.

While there’s no doubt that the so-called sound macroeconomic environment used by the report in determining each country’s global competitiveness isn’t the kind that should grow our real sector and jobs, one can’t disagree more with the President without high quality infrastructure; without better educated and healthy workforce; without diversifying the economy away from oil, the economy would have been ranked more productive and competitive than the global competitiveness recently ranked it.

That is why with all due respect, I disagree with the President about his government’s ‘’steadfast (efforts) in making Nigeria the preferred location for investors to do business.’’ Unless, of course, he was saying that rather than massively investing in infrastructure modernisation and expansion, touring major capitals of western countries like London could easily cover the truth. The painful truth is that no amount of combing the world’s leading capitals or sweet salesmanship like Olusegun Obasanjo spent his entire first term in office doing believing there were some ‘’naïve’’ foreign investors out who could be deceived into believing that there’s an El Dorado called Nigeria.

If what genuine investors are looking for around the world is where to invest to maximise their profits — highest returns and lowest risks — should they come to Nigeria as nonprofit-seeking investors because that is the only they should ignore the reality on the ground? Or, should they be relocating their factories to Nigeria when it is cheaper to dump foreign made goods in the country as a result of the high cost of doing business in Nigeria caused not only by deficient infrastructure, but also by overvalued naira, low import tariff regime, highly stable naira, and above all, cut-throat interest rates?

Since that isn’t the case, President Jonathan should have known that the so-called HIIC meeting that recently took place in London was another worthless effort because genuine foreign investors have superior information about where best to invest their money that our leaders could believe.

That at the end of the day, it’s all about a baseless communiqué issued by Ms. Lynda Chalker, which said, ‘’Members of the council had noted the need for a stable macroeconomic environment in Nigeria, without which investments would not be attracted into the country,’’ makes one to wonder that justified the huge travelling cost and occupying London Hilton Hotel rooms for not less than three days by the President, his cabinet, and the army of Nigerian businessmen and women on his entourage.

That no one figured out that like the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund, and Bank for International Settlement, the Honorary International Investors’ Council is also another lure keeping developing economies like ours caged, should not be blamed on the President. Rather than Jonathan, who to blame for this outing — to the extent that the President fell ill in the process — are his handlers, who should have known that a busy President like ours should be meeting some fake international investors, whose claim of wanting to hear from our President at the expense of the reality on the ground only makes them look like Nigerian 419ners in the 1990s.

What should be more worrisome in today’s electronic age of espionage, is if in the course of pretending to be treating our President, some British doctors administered some biosensor chips in his body, with the goal of building electronic fence around the President?

‘’For the first time in Nigeria’s 53rd year history, we have successfully privatised the electric power industry,’’ the President was proud to tell his London audience.

But then, why didn’t the President also tell them how much the electricity generation and transmission have improved as a result of the privatisation? Did the President also know that there’s a modern economy out that is known for having wholly handed power sector to private sector firms, without fear of possible sabotage?

Or, is the President announcing that as a result of the recent privatisation of the country’s power sector, soon Nigeria should be generating and transmitting up to 100,000 MW, without government leading it? Where will these so-called private sector firms find as high as $200bn needed for increasing the country’s 4,500MW to about 100,00MW?

If government is not ready to take such a risk even when every other developed country did same to upgrade and expand their critical infrastructure like power sector, how do we expect these so-called private investors to take such a huge risk?

Let someone correct me if I’m wrong, how do we really want to lower the present high cost of doing business in the country; how do we want to diversify the economy away from oil; and how do we want to bring to an end the current high import-dependency, if there is nothing on the ground to fully address our high infrastructure deficit head-on?

No matter how we try, the truth we shall never wish away is that if we are seriously thinking about becoming one of the world’s 20 largest economies by 2020, the government should have been leading the development of the country’s essential infrastructure, not private firms, for Jim Marrs, America’s celebrated anti-neoliberal orthodoxy, was right when in his recent book, “The Trillion Dollar Conspiracy”, he qualified privatisation as ‘’…a form of piracy — a pretext to move government assets to private investors at below market prices and then shift private liabilities back to government at no cost to private liability holder.’’

Before ending his speech, Jonathan went further to announce, ‘’I also use this opportunity to inform Council that Nigeria will be hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa, between May 7 and 9, 2014. Our hosting this event is yet again a strong sign of Nigeria’s central economic and political role on the continent.’’

Which World Economic Forum on Africa was the President referring to in his speech when he said ‘’Our hosting this event (be)…a strong sign of Nigeria’s central economic…role on the continent’’? Is it the same which in its 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Report released on September 4, 2013, ranked Nigeria 120th out of the 148 countries ranked, far behind Mauritius 45th, South Africa 53rd, and Kenya 96th?

That apart, the World Economic Forum on Africa we’re proudly announcing to be hosting soon, is the same that was set up simply for the advancement of western economic agenda through western transnational capitalist class, who finds the only usefulness of governments in developing countries is to be used as facilitators in the defence of western global economic interest, is what makes the whole thing an aberration.

In short, if the WEF we are announcing to host isn’t different from the one that has, in the false name of global competitiveness ranking, undermined developing countries — the same way the WTO, IMF, World Bank, Bank for International Settlement — have been doing, then we should have a rethink, a serious rethink, especially considering that the world it is claiming to be out improving is a status quoist one, which ensures that no developing countries is able to adopt out-of-the-box economic development models like the ones countries like China adopted that catapulted them into the world’s economic superpower within three decades.

Which is why we already know what the outcome of hosting such a forum would be: a jamboree with millions of dollars spent on transporting guests, on feeding them, on providing them the most expensive security money can pay for, and above all, on placing expensive adverts on the CNN, Aljazeera, the BBC, as well as on leading international publications such as Financial Times, the Economist, New York Times. Beyond Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appearing on these international media to tell half-truths about the state of our economy, which foreign guests already know, the money spent on hosting of the May 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa definitely should be money gone down the drain.

But protecting our scarce public funds, it is important that our lawmakers should waste no time in summoning those organising the forum to tell Nigerians from where they would be getting the funding for the World Economic Forum on Africa in May 2014.

The truth is that with the likes of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who, as both the finance ministry and the coordinator of the economy, came straight from the World Bank; Mr. Olusegun Aganga, who, in charge of trade and investment ministry, was dispatched right from Goldman’s Sachs, America’s powerful investment bank; and Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, posted straight from Rockefeller Foundation, known for championing an America-led GMO food cartel, should be running the economic affairs of this country, there is no way our current marriage with western imperialists is to be expected worse than it is today.

Or should we have expected Okonjo-Iweala not to be going ahead pursuing fiscal austerity that goes stifling capital spending while bloating recurrent in an effort to keep big government intact and the economy in the state of coma?

What of Adesina, the agric salesman, who talks about agriculture value-chain as if we’re teaching a graduate class, when in reality it is hypnotising us in such a way that soon he secretly smuggles in Rockefeller’s Genetically Modified Food into our food chain?

Why shouldn’t Aganga be announcing to us that foreign retailers, like Shoprite, are in Nigeria growing our economy, when in reality their presence is not only displacing our local retailers and suppliers, but also displacing both small and even big time manufacturers, as they systematic dump homemade goods in Nigeria?

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