Okonjo-Iweala rejects Tinubu's idea on saving Nigeria's economy

Okonjo-Iweala rejects Tinubu's idea on saving Nigeria's economy

Monday, November 17, 2014 9:26 am

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: slams Tinubu's idea

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: slams Tinubu’s idea

Nigeria’s Federal government has rejected the suggestion by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress for the printing of more Naira notes to cushion the effects of tumbling oil prices which has affected the country’s revenues.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a statement yesterday, slammed the idea a “poorly thought out populist recommendation”. She said the idea would be disastrous for the country if implemented.

She said such prescriptions ignore the facts of history as well as the elementary principles of economics.

“Printing money without adequate revenue support will lead to serious consequences for the country.

It will spur inflation as the experiences of Germany in the early part of the last century and more recently, Argentina and Zimbabwe demonstrate. This prescription will victimize the poor and middle class that it is supposedly protecting.”

She explained that the best way to protect the interest of the ordinary people is to control inflation as much as possible, expand the economic base, strengthen the sectors that drive growth, boost critical infrastructure and create more jobs.

“We have already started doing that, the results are already coming but we still have a lot of work to do. To show how serious government is about job creation, President Goodluck Jonathan will tomorrow, November 17 launch the 4th edition of YouWin to support another 1,500 entrepreneurs along with a private equity fund for entrepreneurs. That is an expression of government’s commitment and seriousness to job creation”, Okonjo-Iweala said.

In a statement last week, Tinubu urged the Federal Government to sever Nigeria’s economy from the dollar-based economy, as the nation is not in servitude to the United States economy.

“Listen carefully to the position of the Jonathan Administration as articulated by the finance minister and you shall collide into the barricades of illogic and its weighty consequences. The claim is that government is low on funds because the lower price of oil means fewer dollars are being collected from oil sales. This sounds logical but for one fundamental point. The dollar intake is basically irrelevant to determining the amount of naira the government commands and places into the political economy. This fundamental point reveals the government’s position to be the antiquated relic of a past era. It is the way of the gold standard which ceased to exist over forty years ago. As such, government’s stance is based more on superstition than on the actual functioning of modern economy with a sovereign fiat currency of its own.

“The last I looked, Nigeria operates a Naira-based economy not a dollar-based one. There is no legal or moral restriction strictly limiting the amount of Naira in the system to match the amount of dollars collected via oil sales. More importantly, there is no economic justification for the close linkage implied by the government. If we take its position at face value, the Jonathan Administration is advocating that we effectively place the Naira and thus our fiscal policy on a “dollar standard.” The world jettisoned the gold standard in 1971 because it proved unworkable, reducing the policy space in which governments could pursue fiscal programs promoting full employment and social welfare. We should likewise reject this government’s imposition of a dollar standard on our nation’s fiscal operations.

“Under the gold standard, a national government took pains not to incur budgetary deficits that exceeded the dimensions of its gold reserves. This was because the currency had no value by itself. Its value was based on the convention that the currency was backed by the nation’s gold holdings. Those governments that ran deficits had to pay those debts in gold. Given that gold supplies were always and everywhere finite and exhaustible, a nation had to keep its deficits within the confines of its ability to pay debts in gold. Because of this straitjacketing effect, nations would abandon the gold standard during harsh economic times in order to give them the fiscal freedom to rejuvenate their economies. This was the case during the Great Depression with the major economic powers. This should be the case with Nigeria today since the bulk of our people live in conditions redolent of the Great Depression or any other depression for that matter.

“Our government persists that it must limit fiscal outlays to the amount of dollars the nation holds. Similar to the operation of the discarded gold standard, following this path is to strap ourselves to austerity and the chronic deflation austerity produces. Worse, it serves to enthral the fiscal policy of our sovereign nation to the monetary policy of another country. That nation plies monetary policy to serve its interests and not the economic interests of Nigeria. I am baffled why this government would give such power over the fate of our economic wellbeing to another nation that does not incorporate our interests into its decisional processes. This government makes our nation the economic servant of another so that government may turn about to make the Nigerian people its economic servant. While there is a certain logic to this dynamic, it is a perverse and debilitating one.

Tinubu: idea rejected

Tinubu: idea rejected

“Because we operate a sovereign fiat currency the federal government issues at its sole discretion, the federal government can never be rendered insolvent in Naira. This means it can run Naira fiscal deficits indefinitely. The only outer bound is to ensure the fiscal expansion does not incur damaging inflation rates. There is no logical reason to peg the flow of Naira into the economy to the flow of dollars received. The correct perspective is not to mechanistically restrict Naira expenditure to dollar intake. This would be tantamount to those crippled with economic blinders forcefully leading those who can see we are heading for disaster. It points to deflation, recession and worse. The better methodology is to ascertain, then achieve, the level of Naira expenditure needed to expand the economy and create jobs without causing inflation to rise to dangerous levels. This is how broadly-shared prosperity is generated in a sustainable manner.

“In the face of recessionary headwinds, government should run countercyclical fiscal policy by using its Naira sovereignty to fund fiscal deficits. The deficit is not simply for the sake of running a deficit; the funds cannot be spent on nonproductive matters. It must be used to fuel infrastructural and other projects that not only employ great numbers of people but enhance the overall productivity of the economy”.

“In this way, the nation’s economic engineers should focus primarily on allocating value and opportunity to our under-utilized labor force and our idle, yet potentially productive capital in a way that promotes wealth creation and expansion of aggregate demand. It is this sustainment of aggregate demand that empowers the nation to rescue itself from the whirlpool of economic contraction. This avenue is more benign than the one the federal administration now advocates. Their way calls for us to forget growth and for government to preoccupy itself with allocating economic misery among those segments of the population too poor and weak to contest the immiserable actions of government against them.

“In the face of recessionary headwinds, government should run countercyclical fiscal policy by using its Naira sovereignty to fund fiscal deficits. The deficit is not simply for the sake of running a deficit; the funds cannot be spent on nonproductive matters. It must be used to fuel infrastructural and other projects that not only employ great numbers of people but enhance the overall productivity of the economy. The funds must be used to backstop state governments in a nonpartisan manner so that each state government may continue to pay salaries and pursue projects essential to that state’s economic critical path.

“To accomplish this, the federal government needs to reverse the inimical “dollarization” of the national economy in two ways. First and most importantly, it must abandon the outdated peg of fiscal policy and expenditures to the dollar intake. The one actually has no correspondent nexus to the other. Any commanding connection we give it is an artifice not an economic necessity. Related to this, we must reverse a trend that has gained momentum under this government. Among government-aligned elites, the fad has been to conduct domestic business transactions in dollars. Policy must “nairasize” the economy by requiring all domestic transactions occur in our legal tender. As this is done, the government’s infinite ability to issue Naira will come to outweigh the limitations inherent in the overuse of the finite supply of another nation’s currency for transactions wholly internal to our domestic economy.”

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One Comment

  • Lukman says:

    Indeed, Okonjo Iweala’s postulation is far better than Tinubu’s.

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