Topic: Subsidy removal and unsubsidised truth  (Read 1647 times)

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Subsidy removal and unsubsidised truth
« on: January 09, 2012, 07:06:37 AM »
“It must be a joke, right? The proposed plan by the Federal Government to fully deregulate the downstream sector and remove the remaining subsidy on petroleum products…. The mischief and dishonesty are obvious….The arguments being advanced to justify the proposed full deregulation do not make sense. All the arguments have a ring of déjà vu. They are taken from the same textbooks that the economists have refused to update, the same ideas that led to the collapse of the global economy. Other countries are making a U-turn and subjecting textbook knowledge to the test of reality, Nigerian policy makers are still holding on to old paradigms. One of these days, we shall start stoning the economists in official corridors (emphasis mine)…. Other countries of the world provide subsidy for their citizens. Nigerians ask: if they remove petroleum subsidy completely, then what it that we are expected to enjoy as citizens. Yet, Nigeria is petroleum producing country” (Reuben Abati, Soon, We Shall All Be Trekking, March 1, 2009).

 

The above is taken from an article written over two years by Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity. My purpose for borrowing this extract is to shed more light on the truth that Nigerians shall start stoning the insensitive dramatis personae in the current fuel subsidy removal “joke” as predicted by our erudite journalist a few years ago. Painfully, however, this journalist appears not to believe in his own prophecy any longer. But, Nigerians still do. Moreover, they appear to be very willing, judging by the developments since the removal of the petroleum subsidy removal was announced by the government. The announcement, from all ramifications, was a very unwholesome New Year present by any government to its people. More so because it came at a time the entire nation and its citizenry are of the belief that their rulers are not doing enough in addressing the myriads of problems bedevilling them.

 

Historically, petroleum products and their prices have always been a major cause of friction between the Nigerian people and their leaders. This is because prices of petroleum products affect virtually every area of the Nigerian life. It has become commonplace for various governments, at one time or the other, to adjust or increase the pump prices of petroleum products. Each attempt has always been met with different forms of resistance because an increment leaves the citizens with more holes in their pockets. At each of those periods, the form of resistance could be influenced by the mood of the nation, timing and the government’s general attitude or approach to the aspirations and needs of the people. The need for a government to feel the pulse of the nation and her people is key to determining the timing of certain political and economic policies, especially such policies perceived as unpopular or with known history of violence. A government’s responsibility in the long run would be to ensure that cushioning measures in the form of infrastructure, welfare and other safeguards are in place to assuage the people’s suspicions and extenuate negative responses in relation to the policy or changes being brought into existence. I do not expect every government to do this. It is only the visionary, focused, responsive and responsible government that can do so.

 

The subsidy removal case is an ample example of absence of responsiveness on the path of the government. The issue seems to be part of our government’s ploy to engage in mere diversionary subterfuge rather than tackle headlong burning issues such as security (sorry, insecurity), corruption, power, education, unemployment amongst others. The government is hell-bent on removing the subsidy despite failing to assure Nigerians on how the benefits will translate into economic gains in deed. The act is grossly insensitive, ill-timed, ill-advised and unpopular. More worrisome is the fact that the removal occurred at a time when nothing seems to be working in the nation. Nigerians are giving themselves electricity by resorting to the use of generators; Nigerians are digging boreholes in their homes, as the government cannot provide potable water. Nigerians are securing their lives and property by engaging vigilante groups and neighbourhood watches; sending their children and wards to private schools, as public schools are decadent; even tarring their streets and engaging in all sorts of activities to make ends meet, and living unsubsidised lives while their government reels in profligate and expensive lifestyle.

 

A government is responsive only when it is responsible to the welfare of the people by its actions, and not by the multitude of words and failed promises. All the great ideas and visions of any government are worthless if they cannot be implemented rapidly and efficiently and translated into economic and political gains. Nigerians have been told what the subsidy money would be used for. Question: Where are the results of subsidy removal from diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel? Why is the government not determined to fix our refineries or create an enabling environment for private investors to build new ones since 1999? Why is the government uncommitted to resolving the insecurity problems with the same passion it directed towards the single tenure agenda and subsidy removal? Do you know that if a fraction of the efforts and resources spent by the government in campaigning and canvassing for support for fuel subsidy removal was spent on dealing with the hell-born Boko Haram and other security-related issues, there would have been some respite by now? When a government misplaces its priority, its innocent citizens suffer.

 

Again, the current state of affairs brings to mind the calibre of leaders whom we have elected. It brings to mind that leadership is beyond good luck, good speeches, mind-blowing promises and sentimentalism. Leadership is visionary, purposeful, objective, responsible and responsive. Leadership is about people and a responsibility to the people. With all due respect, our current leaders have been running the affairs of this country on ‘luck’, good luck I must add. Policies on luck; infrastructure development on luck; minimum wage on luck; security on luck; employment on luck; and I can go on and on. What will happen now that luck is running out and Nigerians want action? Are Nigerians being punished for confusing luck with “skills” during the last elections? This nation, like the other serious ones, can only prosper on expertise, vision and skill.

 

The anger and demonstrations on the streets of Nigerian cities and towns are proof that there is no fresh air in this foulness. The government needs to come to terms with the reality that it has failed Nigerians in providing security, quality healthcare, education, electricity, employment and many more. Therefore, let it re-direct its energies in eliminating corruption and insecurity. If Nigerians are the real beneficiaries of subsidy removal, that can only happen if they survive Boko Haram bombings, killings and sundry acts of insecurity. That will happen when we have stable power supply. Nigerians will enjoy subsidy removal when they have effective alternative modes of transport. We will enjoy subsidy removal when our children remain in school and have quality education; when our roads are no longer death traps; when we have health care delivery system instead of “health scare” delivery system; when our collective resources are no longer stolen with impunity and our manufacturing machineries no longer require petrol and diesel as the only way to operate. Until then, we need the so-called subsidy to enable us spend lesser monies on petrol to run our cars, homes, offices and factories. Like Abati rightly asked, “If they remove petroleum subsidy completely, then what is it that we are expected to enjoy as citizens?” The answer, as provided by Abati himself also, when men were men, is ,”we shall start stoning the economists in official corridors
Culled from punchng

 

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