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Buhari and his economic “experts”: The blind leading the blind

As the Nigerian economy descends further into deep recession, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari reached for the “emergency solution”.

Rather than the standard procedure of “in case of emergency break glass”, we have instead the timeworn tactic of “in case of emergency set up a committee”. So yesterday the administration’s “economic management team” led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo held a four hour meeting with “experts” on how to address the economic “challenges” facing the country.

This comes on the heels of an “economic retreat” that was held with “experts” in March that Ekiti governor Ayo Fayose described as a “mere jamboree and waste of over 250 million naira [$780,000] public funds”. Those “experts” at that retreat didn’t do that much good for the economy that has taken a turn for the worse since March.

Now, it is time for another session with “experts” that includes Bismarck Rewane, Bode Agusto, Akpan Ekpo, Ayo Teriba and Badayi Sani. These “experts” are said to have suggested measures such as infrastructural spending with active private sector participation, to ensure “pro-people” economic policies, an increase in the supply of dollars to the forex market, etc.

Did we really need a bunch of so-called experts to come up with these hardly groundbreaking ideas? Rewane is an ever-present talking head on Nigerian TV and he usually repeats the tried and failed. His background is in banking. Bode Agusto is an accountant and was Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation. Akpan Ekpo is a professor of economics. Ayo Teriba is also an economist, as is Badayi Sani, who teaches economics at Bayero University Kano.

Is the Nigerian economy really tanking because there is a shortage of advice from “experts”? Was the Buhari cabinet/”economic management team” not already stuffed with this type of “experts”?

Minister for Trade and Industry Okey Enelamah went to Harvard Business School and worked at Goldman Sachs. Minister for Budget and Planning Udoma Udo Udoma is an Oxford-trained corporate lawyer with years of expertise in capital markets transactions. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun in an economist and accountant. So where is it all going wrong for Nigeria? Surely not due to a shortage of economists and so-called experts!

Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang’s in his book – “23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism” claimed that: “Good economic policy does not require good economists. During their miracle years economic policies in Japan (and to a lesser extent) Korea were run by lawyers. In Taiwan and China, economic policies have been run by engineers. This demonstrates that economic success does not need people well trained in economics – especially if it is of the free-market kind.”

The problem with the Nigerian economy is not the economists or lack of, but the nature of the economic advice and policies pursued. The majority of them involved in economic policy are part of the same consensus peddling the same tried and failed “free-market” ideas that have mired the country in underdevelopment.

You only need to listen to them to see why the country continues to fail. They continue to recycle the same stuff we have heard since the 1980s. Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Buhari tried some of what he is offering now in the 1980s and failed. The same “expert” advice is on tap again and they are leading Nigeria blindly into a ditch.

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