LIVING IN THE PAST, BUILDING A FANTASY

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Muhammadu Buhari

Monday letter1

There are two things that keep people occupied over the last few days of December. It is a ritual repeated all over the world. First, there are the reviews, letting everyone review what has happened over the course of the year that is nearing its end. Then, there are the previews, trying to predict what will happen in the year to come. Both are too often just pieces of gossip, easy reading to bridge the time between Christmas and New Year.

Sometimes, there are some important pieces of information though. So it is important to sift through all of this noise to find the precious gems of information. Recently, several experts have given their opinions on the price of raw oil per barrel for the year 2019. While I am not disposed to decide which of the many experts is completely right, one can discern the overall trend.

Unfortunately, the price of the barrel is unlikely to be rising above its current level in the next year, and if it does, it won’t be for long. There are many factors for this – global production rates, economic growth rates in the consuming countries, large global reserves coming online and so on. This is unfortunate, but it should be of interest to us because of a different reason: President Buhari’s budget for 2019.

If you followed the debate around the budget closely, it is anchored on a benchmark price of 60$ per barrel of crude oil – over 10$ more than the current price! And as a consequence, Buhari’s budget and all his planning are standing on a base that will crumble immediately. Buhari lives in the past, and is building a dangerous fantasy for tomorrow.

He had four years to diversify our economy! Only failed states like Venezuela base their national budget purely on the price of a commodity.  Other countries have tried this and it simply doesn’t work. Look at Zambia and its reliance on Copper. The country is an economic disaster.

Nigeria deserves better than this. We have more to offer than just our natural resources. We are a bright people, full of human potential. We have an educated youth, a mass of ambitious young Nigerian minds yearning for more. They need options, they need opportunities. The status quo where we rely on a volatile oil price is simply unsustainable. It is time we get political leaders who understand this. We shall decide soon.

  • Chukwuma Udegbunam, chukunam85@gmail.com