Hope is alive again

HOPEEVER since 1986, when we chose to ditch, as a nation, administrative control and its line of sight management, for a deregulated economy, the economy has always wobbled. Central planners, till date, remain confused as to whether to stay in the lazy comfort of the administrative setting, or go for the growth promise of deregulation.

All along, with the wobble, we have been driven by drivels from gobbledygook spewing economists, often lacking in common sense advisory, needed for critical change management.

The effect of these partial and a la carte transformation programmes has been utter confusion. Schisms and disagreements within administrations have led to divergent policy directions, which have opened-up cleavages in the economy with devastating effects on domestic production.

The President Muhammadu Buhari returns to the saddle into a yet undefined market economy setting.

Gone are the administrative lines of control management he may have been accustomed to in the first coming, and so also are the co-administrators in whom he had faith and trust.

That’s how fluxed the state of affairs are that many do not know whether we are coming or going. The resulting hopelessness is written on the faces of citizens across the land.

Against that background, the burden of public expectation is high, and only a systematic challenge of each and everyone, to be the change that they desire, rather than a rabid rush to get a piece of the pie, will deliver hope to the hopeless, and put the nation back on the mend.

Late Professor Alan Walters, chief economic adviser to the late British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said that the problem with achieving economic growth targets was largely due to civil servants and their political policy leaders who do not understand markets, and the considerable importance of money in their processes.

A large number of classical economists, 364 of them, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer took him on, but he poured enough whisky for the Prime Minister, to stiffen her spine, and she stayed the course.

The rest like they say is history. She privatised under-performing state assets, brought in imaginative ways of creating public assets through PPPs and PFIs, won the admiration of an equally focused American President, Ronald Reagan, and found a Russian leader, the West could do business with, Mikael Gorbachev. Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and her team proved that classical economics is not the issue but their application (the technology of it) as expressed in markets that work that matter.

Put in her words, men that can make things happen. Governance must focus, at all times, on the well-being of the individual (citizen) by constantly creating opportunities for them to reach their aspirations. It must move away from extreme ideological positions of sharing without creating, or the belief that wealth created at the top will trickle down.

The new executive and legislature must arm themselves with concepts of money and markets as veritable tools of analysis.

Having acquired their tools, they should use them to drive their policy decision processes, in such a manner that the public good is always defended against the exploitative tendencies of private interests. This is the only way to stop the fits of starts and stops which have bedevilled our privatization programme and the efforts to keep to the design plan of new cities.

If we are able to stay the course, while keeping to strict monetary targets, the markets, and by extension, the economy will equilibrate themselves. The levers of monetary control will begin to work again and hope will be restored.

There are many underperforming and sub-optimal markets in the economy. Power markets without definition, capital markets lacking in confidence, government gilts with blunting edges, healthcare without cover, farmers exploited by buying agents, skill markets that are inappropriate etc, etc.

Any place, real or virtual, where goods and services are exchanged is a market. Economic deregulation, which allows private sector participation in hitherto exclusive areas of government does not mean the market space will not be regulated.

Regulation is to extract value through competition, while keeping a watchful eye for anti-trust and manipulations. • Charles Iyore is Principal partner, Dion & Associates CTA.

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