Joseph Choonara, in the introduction to his book “Unravelling Capitalism”, wrote that at the end of 2008 the failure of capitalism was greatly in evidence. The collapse of the US housing bubble in the autumn of 2007 triggered a financial panic and the collapse of several major banks. This started the long recession which was made worse by austerity measures, introduced especially by European governments.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we are already in the midst of the “largest financial shock since the Great Depression” of the 1930s. Joseph further said that nobody knew how deep the problems were or how long they would last. However, he identified three clear aspects:
A series of bubbles in the world economy masked what, from a Marxist perspective, had been apparent for many years: the poor health of the “real” economy, compared to the sustained period of growth during the 1950s and 1960s.
Those at the commanding heights of the US Federal Reserve, the British Treasury and the boardrooms of banks and multinationals have no coherent theory of their own system. They swing from wild panic to glib optimism
Politics, as Lenin wrote is “concentrated economics”. Crisis acerbates all the political divisions within the system
There was a free fall in the crude oil price in the world market from early 2014 when it was more than $100 a barrel to only $30 in January 2016 (although it has increased slightly since then). In addition, inflation is still almost 10% and the unemployment rate is almost 25%. The crash of the naira against the international currencies is making matters worse. As at November 2015, the naira was exchanging to a dollar at N155, however, by February this had fallen to N315. As a result, the cost of imports has doubled in a few months, for example, the cost of a bag of imported rice.
The local economy is import dependent with a weak export base. Crude oil and gas shipments account for the over whelming percentage of exports. Imports include basic foods and other basic necessities. Punch Newspaper, 30th December 2015, reported that in the first quarter of 2014 crude oil accounted for over 80% of exports. This was an improvement on the corresponding period in 2013 when it was nearly 90%.
According to data from a First Bank publication, the Central Bank of Nigeria has been forced to moderate the foreign exchange market by selling dollars to importers. This included huge sums to be spent on the following imports in the first quarter of 2014 which could all be produced locally:
premium motor spirit – N192billion
wheat – N54.2billion
raw cane sugar – N27.5billion
milk and cream – N19.5billion
bitumen – N18.4billion
palm oil – N8.1billion
toothpicks, candles and matches.
The Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi lamented that defending the naira was depleting the foreign reserves.
Prof. Wole Soyinka advocated an Emergency Economic Conference to tackle the economics woes. He was of the view that President Mohammadu Buhari should convene an emergency economic conference to include experts, consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts, professors etc. This was back in February, but the government has taken no action. The president is even yet to put in place his economic team.
The question one needs to ask is – what happened to the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP)? This was a comprehensive document launched in 2014. How are we sure that the proposed economic summit would not go the same way as the Industrial Revolution Plan, National Conference, and host of others?
Meanwhile the working class and other poor people are suffering huge price increases for electricity (even when supplies have dropped further), kerosene and basic food stuffs. Unemployment shows no sign of improving and the Government is giving no indication that the minimum wage may increased.
As a result of economic growth of seven or eight per cent a year, the local economy has almost doubled in the last decade or so. But the level of poverty has stayed the same and the minimum wage has not increased for six years. The benefits of economic growth have all gone to the 1%.
The current government was elected to change this and reduce the level of corruption by the corrupt elite. But a year after they were elected the poor majority are, if anything, even poorer. People are right to question when the change we were promised will arrive.
The bottom line is that it is not yet uhuru for the working class.
- Peter Adejobi