Monday, February 6, 2012

Shock Therapy: Jeffrey Sachs Prescription for Nigeria

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is a well known and widely respected American economist who remains the youngest economics professor in the history of Harvard University. His success in prescribing solutions to developing countries problems is at best mixed. His best and most influential work was in Bolivia where his economic prescription helped reduced that country’s hyper inflation and stabilized the polity. He spend considerable time in studying Bolivia peculiar problem and at the end, his plan which includes ending government subsidies, eliminating import quotas, helped reduced Bolivia’s hyperinflation from 11,750% to 15% per year from 1985 to 1987. It is hard to argue against his success in Bolivia until you examine the results of the same prescription in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia.

It is against this background that one can better understand his strong support for the Nigeria’s government sudden removal of petroleum subsidy on January 2, 2012. Professor Sachs went further than any Nigerian government official to argue in his Op-ed in the New York Times that “when Nigeria won relief on its external debt in the mid-2000s, the savings on debt service were actually redirected to meaningful social investments in states and local governments...” I seriously doubt any Nigerian government official can make this claim with any modicum of seriousness. In actual fact, at the government sponsored debate held in Lagos before the withdrawal of subsidy, virtually all the government official in attendance attest to the fact that Nigerian people are right to be skeptical about any promised dividends from the subsidy removal given previous results. What we know from the National Assembly probe is that the surplus gained during the mid-2000s was largely expended on an ill fated attempt by the Obasanjo’s regime to amend the constitution to gain an additional third term.

The problem with Professor Sachs’ prescriptions for Nigeria is a fundamental lack of understanding of Nigeria situation. In Bolivia, Professor Sachs spends considerable time studying the problem of Bolivia and even lived in that country. At most, Sachs barely knows the fundamentals of the Nigerian economy. It is apparent that he thinks Nigeria has a centralized economy when in actual fact Nigeria economy is oligarchy driven. Majority of the national corporations are in actual fact owned by the few oligarchs who used them as tools to further their nest, inflating contracts and influencing policies as they go. This indeed also explains the failure of Sachs’ prescription for Russia. It would be recalled that Sachs advised Russia (under the Yeltsin administration) for two years from December 1991 to January 1994. As Nancy Holmstrom and Richard Smith pointed out the drastic decreases in industrial output over the ensuing years, a near halving of the country's GDP and of personal incomes, a doubling of the suicide rate, and a skyrocketing unemployment rate is indirectly traceable to Sachs’ prescription for Russia.

One can only hope that on Professor Sachs’ next trip to Nigeria he will ask his Nigerian host to show him where the “meaningful social investments in states and local governments” in the mid-2000’s really are. If they are honest they will probably point him to the Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts where they stashed the funds, but I will not bet on it!

More on Trip to Mother Africa

12-19-11 Bugs Everywhere

I killed ten bugs in my room last night, it was very scary. Today, my Mom and Dad left to go stock up on food, while they were gone, one of my grandma-I am required by tradition to refer to all my Dad’s sister as grandma (another peculiarly Yoruba-ish respect thing)- gave us lunch. We had rice and drank this water that came in sachets. We were suspicious of the water at first but eventually we all drank it. About an hour after my parents got back, Daniel and Sam suddenly said their stomach hurts. Sam went to lie down but Daniel decided to go play outside, as it turns out that was a good decision, he threw up on the dirt outside, and we didn’t have to clean any of that up. 15 minutes after that he threw up again. Then like 10 minutes after dinner Sam threw up and it smelled worse than Daniel’s and after that I wanted to throw up.

After cleaning up Sam throw up, my Mom asked me what we had for lunch and we told her. She said that the sachet water was “pure water” and since we weren’t used to it that’s what made Sam and Daniel throw up. So I’ll pretty much remember this day as a day of gross smelling throw up. This stinks! And also it turns out we’re going to Akure on Wednesday, I can’t wait!

12-20-11 Lost in the Forest of One Thousands Demons

We got lost today. Here’s how it all started. My Mom dropped us off at my Uncle’s house so she could run some errands, Sarah and Daniel played with my cousins, while Sam, David and I read our books. I finished two of them. We had PB & J sandwiches as a snack. And these delicious noodles called Indomie for lunch. Then my Mom came to pick us up. After about 15 minutes of driving I realized we were lost apparently my mom realized this too, because she pulled over and asked for directions the guy said to go straight. In Africa, every passerby you asked for directions will always first tell you to go straight. After another 15 minutes, she asked another person and again this other person said go straight too. I was beginning to think road should never end. 10 minutes passed she asked another person and received the same answer. It is now I missed our GPS we left in Spokane, but then will it work in Africa?

Now, I was angry and felt like this whole town was playing some horrible joke on us. After another 15 minutes of driving on this insane “straight” long road we were finally home. I had never been so happy to see new our house at Ilesha.

12-21-11 Lost Again

Today we got lost again! My Dad’s sister in Akure invited us to stay till Friday and we accepted, we left at about 6:20p.m, which is when the sun goes down in Nigeria and its dangerous to drive on Nigerian roads at night. But we ‘ve never been a very safe family. Then the arguing started, my Dad decided to go a way that would show us the farm his maternal grandpa used to take him to, but my Mom said that way wasn’t safe. Finally, since he was driving my Dad decided to go his way. But his way was bumpy and rocky and my Mom wanted us to turn back but the road is too small and we couldn’t. Eventually we found a place where we could back up and turned around and we did. But we didn’t know where to go so we just chose a direction and drove that way till we found the main road. When we got to Akure, I saw all my cousins once again and cheered up. We sat and watched TV and talked till the power went out and everyone went to bed.

12-22-11 A walk around the Neighborhood

The power was out forever today. Later we went on a laptop on to facebook. We sent friend request to one others so that when my family goes back to Spokane we can stay in touch. It was actually cool for once, so we took a walk around the neighborhood. On our walk we saw tons of kids playing with dirt and adults sitting together in clumps on porches having parties. So when we got back to my cousins house we decided to have our own little party we ate oranges and drank juices we talked about school. All my cousins go to boarding schools. So I asked what it was like they said it was O.K. Then the power came back and we watched T.V. for the rest of the night.

12-23-11 Indomie Noodle for Lunch and visit to the ZOO

Today we woke up and did our usual morning ritual which consists of us brushing our teeth, taking showers, eating breakfast, and doing our Kumon and homework. Then we watched T.V. then had Indomie Noodles for lunch. At about 3:00 pm my Dad told my siblings and cousins that we were going to a wildlife park. We were super excited so we hurriedly put on our shoes and socks. I wish I could tell you our excitement hadn’t been wasted but I can’t. Here are the reasons why our trip to the wild life park was horrible. One, there was no guides or people walking around the park to make sure you are o.k. So if you get lost then there’s no one to find you. Two, all the animals looked sad and underfed. I wanted to let them out of their cages but my Dad said I couldn’t. Three, most of the animals were hiding so I didn’t get any good pictures. Finally we got back home from the horrible wildlife park and watched T.V., ate dinner and went to bed.

12-24-11 Christmas Eve

Its Christmas Eve today and I’m so happy!! We left Akure today but my family also split ways. My Dad, my siblings except Sarah, my aunty children in Akure except Ty went to Ilesha while my Mom, Sarah and my aunty went to Kabba to see the latter’s husband’s mom. They’re coming back on Monday but I’m sad I wont b e able to spend Christmas with my little sister. When we got to Ilesha, I found out that every cousin I had on my Dad’s side was spending the nigh at our house. The names of all the cousins on my Dad’s side at our house are: Bose, Kenny, Yemi, Nife, Tosin, Feran, Bolu and Praise. My Dad told me all of them were staying till Tuesday. I was excited to spend time with my cousins. The rest of the night we watched a bunch of African movies, which were hilarious because a bunch of people died, and the people used magic to kill them. We went to bed at about 12:30 p.m. all the girls slept in my room and all the boys in Sam’s room. It was a fun day.

12-25-11 Christmas Day

Christmas this year was probably the best Christmas ever. First, we went to my uncle’s church, I could barely sit through the service. Then we went through giving rice and vegetable oil which we bought with the money we raised from mine and Sam’s widows and orphans fundraising in Spokane, to the widows around my Dad’s old neighborhood. After that we went to a party my grandma had for all her friends. I had to say “hi” to almost all of them and so did all my cousins and siblings. My Dad could tell we were getting restless so he said we could go. We were really excited because we were going to Erin-Ijesha waterfalls. Erin-Jesha waterfalls are these waterfalls that have 7 levels you can climb up everyone says that they pre really fun to climb so my Dad said we could go. Kenny, Tosin, Bolu, Praise, Daniel and David stopped at level 2 but the rest of us decided to keep going but in the middle of levels 4 and 5 we really started to wish we had brought some water. Finally, we made it to level 7 and we immediately knew the climb was worth it. You could see everything from up there, lush green foliage et al. It was beautiful. We quickly descended when we got back down to level two we all had a huge water fight. Everyone was soaking wet when we left but we all agreed to had been the best day of our trip so far.

12-26-11 Another Wedding Introduction

We went to a wedding introduction today. It’s where the two families meet each other eat, drink, talk, be merry and exchange gifts with each other. Kids really didn’t have anything to do there so it was super boring. When we got home my Dad made my cousins, siblings and I stand up and say 5 things about ourselves. He said the person who remembers the most people’s 5 things he would give them #200 naira. Yemi won that contest. Just then grandma came in and my Dad says that we should make movie about our family history. So got out the camcorder we all gathered around my grandma and she told us where she was born, who her parents were and etc. It was pretty interesting since she let us ask a bunch of questions. I found interesting facts like that in college, my grandma dropped out of school because she joined wrong gang. Everyone laughed when they heard that. Making the movie was a lot of fun and I know that I’ll be sad when my cousins leave tomorrow.

12-27-11 Missing you

All of my cousins left today, I’ll miss them a lot but I’m happy I’ll get to see them again next year (?). After my cousins left it got really boring since there was no one to talk to and I couldn’t use Kenny’s phone to go on the Internet anymore. I thought about talking to my siblings but that’s like torture. So I ended up helping and talking to my Mom in the kitchen. It was nice talking to her again I hadn’t realized how much I missed her until now. She told me about her childhood and I listened carefully. After I finished talking to my Mom, I went outside and played with Daniel and Sarah for a little while. They were playing with dirt and my Mom got so mad when she saw that they got their clothes all dirty.

12-28-11 Empty, Bare and Alone

My Mom told us that we’re going to Abeokuta tomorrow and from there to Lagos and eventually to Spokane. We had to pack up most of our stuff and that took forever and when we got done the house was bare. It looked to empty and write alone and I felt like giving it a big hug, but didn’t since it’s a house. When we were done packing Mom told us to write a list of all the foods here that we want to bring to Spokane with us. We argued a lot over the list until my Mom said to put everything that everyone wanted on the list and she would decide what stays and what goes. After that I went to my room and read my book and played some games on my kindle. Then I hung out with my siblings until dinner and after dinner, bedtime was here.