The current slide in the price of crude oil, in the international mar­ket, poses a budgetary challenge to Nigeria and other members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). At less than $60.00, as 2014 draws to a close, the some­what rapid, south-bound price of crude oil, upon which Nige­ria depends for about 80 percent of her forex, has come, with an unseasonable touch, and it has triggered, amongst public policy-makers and development econo­mists, a debate for a new, nation­al economic orientation.
Both parties agree that the un­expected south-bound price of crude oil would, compellingly, eat, deeply, into government ac­tivities with effect from 2015 up 2019. For that major capital proj­ects, like road construction and development of new if decidedly ambitious ? rail routes, in the deep south of the country, may have to take a longer time to com­plete, on account of budgetary restraints if not suspended for a fairly long time.
The naira may lose value com­pared to the dollar, pound and euro, with an attendant, negative expression on consumer price index (CPI) and, amongst others, the cost of borrowing from the banks.
Still, development economists argue that even if the price of crude oil plummets to, say, $35.00 by February 2015, what it may call, naturally for especially for Nigeria is an adoption of some form of fiscal astringency and a guarded regime of economic austerity. Besides, it?s believed that no matter how harsh may be the crude oil crisis effects on Ni­geria?s budgetary expectations, her economy is unlikely to get frighteningly emaciated ? a la the PIGS ? Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain ? all of them southern members of the European Union that suffered most from the re­cent global depression caused, in the mass, by the sinking, in 2008, of the Lehman Brothers finan­cial outfit in the United States.
The confidence in the resil­ience of Nigeria?s economy that it would almost ford through the current crude oil crisis ? is freighted on the experience of the early ?80s, when the price of crude oil, in the international market, plummeted as wretch­edly low as $3.00.
A greater cause of today?s fall in the price of crude oil is the fact that China?s economy is ex­periencing some form of reces­sion: in place of a projected 8.8 percent for 2014, what obtains is about 5.03 percent. It presuppos­es that Beijing is not importing much oil ? Nigeria?s, alongside others ? as a result. In addition, the United States is fast becom­ing less dependent on imported oil, having found a huge quan­tum at home.
And yet, it?s a bit paradoxical that in place of the crisis sprung in the Middle East by the Islam­ic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) helping the fortunes of crude oil, because of its scarcity in the in­ternational market, the reverse is the truth.
Participants at a recent con­ference, in Lagos, organised by the Institute of Entrepreneurs Nigeria, agreed that it was high time, as a result of the current fall in the price of crude oil, that Nigeria started exploring, quite seriously, other sources of foreign exchange ? alongside of­fering incentives to an expected army of entrepreneurs who?d be active in the new non-oil turfs.
This time, the participants chorused, to stem Nigeria?s over-dependence on a mineral that is not only non-renewable, but, sad­ly, with a volume that is south-bound.
The Executive Director of the Bank of Industry (BOI), Mr. Waheed Olagunju, said Nigeria, with a population of 170 mil­lion, needs more entrepreneurs, would stimulate employment amongst 45 million adults fit to rejuvenate the country?s econo­my with emphasis on inspiring a healthy growth and competition in the small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) sector of the economy.
There is, therefore, a need for a new national economic policy, orientation and implementation ? towards a diversification of the oil-based, forex in-flow into the Nigerian economy. With nearly all the 774 Local Governments in
the country blessed with export­able minerals, Olagunju ? the Ex­ecutive Secretary of IOE ? Nige­ria, Dr. Rotimi Oladele with him ? was of the view that the crude oil crisis posts, in relief, a drive towards the relevance of the SMEs, as the new dynamic force of the Nigerian economy ? as was the case, in the late ?80s and early ?90s, with the Asian Tigers like South Korea, Singapore, Tai­wan, Malaysia, Indonesia et al.
He said that while BOI was es­tablished in 2001 to bring about a new culture of industry and effective economic management its resources, the available funds, given as loans to prospective ben­eficiaries, should not be seen as some former ministers tend, somewhat irresponsibly, to think ? as ?government money meant to be taken and diverted to less productive ventures.
BOI, Olagunju said, was de­signed for economic growth and minimisation of risks that were often associated with economic mismanagement or budgetary indiscipline that would seem to have characterised the Nigerian economy, since 1979 ? via uncom­promising loan terms and effec­tive supervision of the activities of the recipients. Presently, BOI is into a punctilious process to create between 20,000 – 40,000 jobs on the wings of some N5 billion.
In response to the inherent dan­ger posed to Nigeria?s economy?s over-reliance on crude oil, BOI has identified 10 SME-friendly commercial banks that would be willing to allow BOI-backed en­trepreneurs to access long-term funds at fairly- friendly or con­cessional rates. Such entrepre­neurs, spread all over the six geo-political zones of the country, are characters in whom that BOI is investing a generous amount of confidence and hope, as the next skippers of industry, who?d trig­ger a much-desired renaissance in the Nigerian economy.
In addition to SME-friendly banks, BOI ? buoyed by simple, if informed, economic instinct ?intends, as Olagunju disclosed, in the near future, to approach, with a sense of duty, the vis­ibly- rich in the country ? the ?Dangotes? ? to aid the funding of SME-driven economic activities in the country in that, that way the ?Dangotes? would, in keeping with an element of corporate so­cial responsibility (CSR), have expanded, solidified and empow­ered the base of the economy from which they made their gar­gantuan wealth.
At a time, like this, of dire economic straits, Oladele, who?s also the president of the Nige­rian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), took a holistic view of to­day?s economic crisis and offered some forward-looking strategies, which if heeded by the Nigeria?s economic policy- makers, could, immeasurably, be helpful.
He offered that Nigerian law-makers needed education on en­trepreneurial issues, so that they could craft laws that are friendly to economic growth revved by SMEs. Nigeria, said he, was los­ing a colossal lot ? in terms of time, energy and resources, in the current regime ? where there?s no policy to drive the SMEs.
Oladele?s position, put differ­ently, is that there ought, by now ? nearly two decades into the Fourth Republic ? to have been an inseparable linkage between SME-friendly legislations, with­in the matrix of Nigeria?s politi­cal economy and the sustainabil­ity of democracy; for when the SMEs are not singing melodious songs of economic growth, what, then, is the essence of democ­racy?
Besides, it was Oladele?s view that, in recognition of SMEs as reigning foundations of emerg­ing markets or enterprise econo­mies, there?s a need for a ?knowl­edge platform?, at Nigeria?s primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, for the inculcation of entrepreneurial skills and behaviour that would have, as a leitmotif, disciplined budget­ary and monetary practice ? not squandermania.
The essence of education, eco­nomic growth and crime control, said Oladele, is ?entrepreneurial knowledge platform.? When peo­ple cannot think, constructively ? oftentimes, as a product of un­relieved ignorance ? they resort to crime. Entrepreneurial knowl­edge, skill and behaviour, said Ol­adele, should also be extended to the prisons, because there were empowered ex-prisoners, who built China?s economy.
A nutritionist, who?s also the first female and seventh Direc­tor-General of the Federal In­stitute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos, Dr. (Mrs.) Gloria Elemo, advocated patron­age and consumption of locally-made goods. Amid dwindling oil-based forex, she offered that there?s a need to cut down, dras­tically, on food importation. It?s senseless to expend about N360 million, daily, on the importation of wheat.
Abuja, she said, should make generous funds available for the promotion of an effective liaison


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