Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year

EVERY new year hatches new aspirations for corporations and countries. Individuals too have their ambitions, mostly called resolutions.

Whether they are kept or not, resolutions help their makers to appraise the past year and decide on areas of improvement.

A new year in Nigeria is one of several ignored opportunities to chart a new course. Governments talk about improved services and a better year. These are lines plucked straight from previous years' speeches.

Little changes because there are no plans to change the country for the benefit of the people. With the global economic crunch, our governments are acting as if they are oblivious of the tough times that are ahead next year. Promises of a better year are at best hollow.

What are the bases for the optimism? The price of crude oil, the main fuel for the economy, keeps crashing. At $35 per barrel and sliding, the revenue from oil is already $10 under the $45 benchmark in the federal budget. It follows that budgets (federal, state and local government) are already in deficit. How will governments prosecute their budgets?

The famous “excess crude oil fund” would soon be exhausted. Without any contributions into it from new oil sales, the monthly dispersal of oil revenue from Abuja would gradually become a more frustrating exercise to states that depend solely on this sum for survival. It is too late to turn to new revenue sources to tackle 2009 challenges.

The “economy” of some states can collapse. Section 164 (1) of the Constitution foresaw this situation. It states: The Federation may make grants to a State to supplement the revenue of that State in such sum and subject to such terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

States that fall into this marsh must find succour elsewhere. The National Assembly in almost 10 years of this Constitution did not make a law for the Federation to rescue states in financial binds.

As in the past, the peoples’ happiness will not flow from government actions and inactions. Governments will have enough tough time balancing the budgets, even finding the money to fund the budgets. They will not remember the people.

The enterprise and survival instincts of the Nigerian would be tasked thoroughly. Things would not be easier. There are no comforting signs. Poverty could fester, unemployment could rise, and inflation may touch unimagined heights as government depreciates the Naira to meet its domestic obligations.

Our governments must prepare the people for the crunch instead of deceiving them with empty words. A tough year is undoubtedly ahead, especially as governments mull the next elections, which are two years away, in most cases. Governments will learn prudence. It is something for Nigerians to look forward to this year.

The unyielding spirit of the Nigerian will serve him well as he goes through a year whose only certainty is challenges.

Happy New Year Nigerians and welcome to another defining year.