Saturday, June 4, 2011

[Post-election Nigeria] muddling through or economic disaster

FT (blog)
1 June 2011

[Post-election Nigeria] muddling through or economic disaster
By Nasir el-Rufai, former minister of Federal Capital Territory and former director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises

Nigeria, a nation of over 150 million people, generated only 2,000 megawatts of electricity this week. Ethnic, religious and political crises have claimed thousands of lives and displaced countless more. Maternal mortality is among the highest in the world. Not a single university in the country appears among the top 5,000 universities in the world. Infrastructure, where it exists is broken and neglected.

Yet, this year, government will spend more to subsidize petrol (about USD 5 billion) than on roads, education, health and power combined. This prioritization is symptomatic of the political economy of today’s Nigeria.

At issue is whether Nigeria remains a “Clique Democracy” or a real, people-driven democracy; whether the current leadership, sworn in again on Sunday has the character, vision and will to defy vested political and business interests to govern decently and grow the economy. Without a major change in the way our country is governed there is reason to fear that what should be Africa’s leading economy, will instead be courting disaster.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s first 18 months at the helm did not bode well. The politics of division has pitted northerners against southerners and Christians against Muslims to the point that obtaining the cohesion and social harmony necessary for economic development will be very difficult.

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