2022 BUDGET: WHAT PROSPECT FOR THE WORKING MASSES?
NIGERIA: A COUNTRY AT THE PRECIPICE
The ruling class or working class to the rescue?
By Dagga Tolar
With a deficit of N5.2 trillion, and N3.3 trillion for debt services, leaving recurrent expenditure at N5.6 trillion with capital expenditure at N4.1 trillion, the MSA in her paper publication: SOLIDARITY (May 2021) had aptly described the so called 2021 Buhari’s budget of ‘RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE’, to be nothing else than a budget of ‘CONSOLIDATING POVERTY AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT OF THE ECONOMY AND COUNTRY’, and that it aims for nothing else than “to make a mincemeat of the working masses”.
The same is true of the 2022 budget of N13.98 trillion. With expected revenue of N8.76 trillion, debt servicing will gulp N5.22 trillion with a projected borrowing of N5.02 trillion. Like in 2021, the 2022 budget is a budget deficit at a figure of N6.26 trillion, with a prideful disdain that it is merely 3.3 % of Gross Domestic Product (GPD), when in reality the burden will be completely shifted upon the working masses, in the form of non-creation of significant new jobs to remedy the mass unemployment figure that is currently placed at a figure of 33.3%, higher taxes etc.
So we are face to face with a deficit budget that will borrow more than it has projected to borrow as the case of 2021 demonstrates, to basically just service the existing debt, which will leave it with no option than to turn to the working masses, and squeeze as much as possible from them. And the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed puts it more sharply when she states as follow: “The most viable solution to our fiscal challenge, therefore, remains to grow our revenues and plug all leakages.”
The key message therein is that everything will be done to “grow our revenue”, which if translated in layman’s language it means that the working masses should prepare themselves for more attacks on their already worsening conditions of living. The Buhari-led regime is therefore engaged in a double-speak when it falsely claims that with the same budget, 100 million Nigerians will be lifted from poverty. This is grand standing of the highest order, if anything it aims to condemn more people into poverty.
The budget, year in year out, fails to address the question of the high cost of governance, with the ruling elites calling on the working masses to brace up for social cuts, while it directly increases allocation of the already high cost of governance to make more money for itself. It is no longer news that more than one-third of the country’s budget is apportioned to the largesse and excess earnings of elected public officials at the dire need for funds for the economy and the entire needs of the working masses.
Even at that, it didn’t stop the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing its allocation with a figure of 6 billion Naira in 2021 making it a total of N134 billion, you would think that workers would benefit from it, NO! Parliamentary workers in the National Assembly have had to organize an action to force the payment of allowances due to them, indicating that the flagged out “recovery” of the economy the budget is positioned to play in reality is for the ruling elites, their cronies and members of the Billionaire club and that in end the lot of the working masses will continue to be that of penury and suffering.
From a debt profile of $10.72 billion dollars in 2015 when the Buhari-led regime came into power, the country is now saddled with a total debt of $32.85, a 218% increase. It is extremely scandalous that the regime works with practically no exiting plan from this debt burden. Even when the Obasanjo regime in 2005 under the watch of the then Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala had wholesomely handed out a $12 billion USD cash to have its debt then at a figure of $30 billion written off, this is against the obvious need of the cash by the working masses to meet all of her needs.
Socialists had pointed out that capitalism continuous and rapacious hunger for cash cannot be assuaged, it goes for cash by all means necessary, even at the peril of its own survival, not giving a damn whatsoever at the misfortunes that would befall the working masses in its desperate bid to meet all of the conditions that would enable it access new credit facilities. Conditions that insist on attacks to worsen the living conditions of the working masses. Debt exit is therefore a ruse, before the Obasanjo regime left in 2007 the country was already indebted again to a tune of $3.65 billion by 2015 to a figure of $10.72 billion.
Given the huge wealth of the country both in terms of natural and mineral resources, the country is a bride of creditors, who know that with Nigeria, there will be no loss, if anything it is a welcome goldmine to them to offer credit facilities to the country, so government throws all caution to the wind, it borrows from anywhere and from anyone, Femi Oke puts it more better when he states that: “The Nigerian government borrows in the worst possible way and in a very outdated manner. This causes a backlash to the government. Because Nigeria’s debts are not linked to any assets, we just go to the Treasury bill market and borrow, at any rate that anybody wants to give you.”
Then there is the surreptitious milking of the debtor countries through debt servicing that in no little way worsen the situation the more, denying the country needed fund to service loans. Debt servicing for the IFI is a ploy to keep debtor countries permanently indebted and dependent on the creditor countries, there is the offer of new credit facilities attached to debt servicing to make it more attractive to be further ensnared into the debt trap.
This is the logic of capitalism that milks poor countries to feed the greed for cash by the creditor nations and institutions.
But when apologists of the regime say to us that they are borrowing for “infrastructural development”, it is a complete ruse. According to Kingsley Moghalu, this debt burden that has been unleashed on the country on the need for infrastructural development has “grossly underperformed”.
It is surprising that someone like Moghalu, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank can claim ignorance of the logic of the capitalist system that he fully subscribes to, which is what drives the whole essence of debt servicing not to exit it or employ it for infrastructural development. Initially, yes, but the debtor nation gets sucks in, it occasions the loss of sovereignty as policy framework both microeconomic and macroeconomic is dictated by the creditors with the aim of achieving repayment.
This is the role assigned to the International Financial Institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in keeping capitalism afloat internationally, which it does with its impossible interest repayment and debt servicing payment plans, which in themselves ensnare the debtor countries into the trap of inability to pay, with new loans offered to enable the existing debts to be serviced.
This explains why the Buhari regime does not see the danger for the country in debt servicing with as much as 99% of every dollar, the country earns as revenue from oil. Now, Buhari has turned to pleading for debt forgiveness. Speaking at the 76th of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, he says that: “vital public financial resources are allocated to external debt servicing and repayments at the expense of domestic health and financing for critical developmental needs”32
But Buhari is mistaken.
The reality is that at no time is capitalism willing to permanently play Santa Claus to the working masses, nor will it recognize and prioritize the overall essence and need for health, education, development of the means of production so as to impact on all sectors of the economy as against making super profit for Big Business, even in the dire face of the necessity of the essential basics for the survival and happiness of the working masses.
This all-important step is not an option before the Buhari-led regime nor can any wing of the ruling elites be expected to take up this agenda without first breaking away from capitalism and embracing the idea of scientific socialism. For only with the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy will the resources become freely accessible and make available the funds to develop the economy.
FOREX AND THE CBN BAN OF 41 IMPORTED ITEMS
The CBN had banned 41 items from importation hoping against hope and believe that this will help reduce the pressure and demand for foreign exchange, rather than reduce it, it has helped to boost the ‘outside of the bank’ foreign exchange market otherwise known as “Black Market”. Such is the nature of the schooling under capitalism that it inherently blinds it disciples from seeing the fault in its system.
How is it that the Buhari regime does not realize that manufacturing industry is fast collapsing, textile industry for example …. And that the whole country is completely an import dependent economy, oil is a good example. As a producer of crude the country should have no business importing fuel, why is fuel not listed as one of the commodities, become the 42nd on the banned list of imported items? The answer is obvious, the refineries are not functioning and the Oil Baron enjoys the super profit from it and as well as the free loot of public fund that goes under the name of subsidy.
Shouldn’t it be clear that as long as electricity, steel, and energy industries are not developed so long will manufacturing not fully take off, and in reality private profiteers will for eternity remain unwilling to invest in these key sectors outside of the minimal area of service delivery in terms of distribution which frees them from the burden of core act of production and the long term cost and implication, neocolonial capitalism is wired on a short term basis at worse midterm to be able to reap profit.
So when the CBN governor Godwin Emefiele launches out against Abokifix , that he “… is a Nigerian, living in England, we will track him, Mr Oniwinde, we will track you. “We cannot allow you to continue to kill our economy.” Is this economics or Voodoonomics that is in operation, how is reporting the rate of exchange in the Black Market an act killing the economy, when the BM in reality is dancing to the tunes and logic of capitalism to put forward options and all “customers” go for the best possible deal, which is what the BM offers.
A dollar at the bank currently exchanges 420 while that of the BM exchanges for between 565 and 570. This is how much the capitalist system hurts the working masses unendingly, always organised to favour the bosses and the capitalist class, and at no time must it be the other way round in favour of the working masses. Yet its rule declares the necessity of competition, how is it that the CBN governor does not want competition from the BM.
It wants to protect it profits as much as possible both for his masters and the banks. This is why the working masses must place no trust whatsoever on capitalism as a system, why its defenders say it is blind and operates with no particular interest to favour anyone in particular, they know for truth that it pretty well acts differently and constantly in the interest of the capitalist and members of the billionaire club.
DIASPORA REMITTANCE FUND
Yes if anything, is behind the screaming attack of the CBN governor on Abokifix, it is the huge inflow of cash from outside of the country by thousands and thousands of Nigerians, who left the shores of the country and turned up elsewhere as economic refuges, be it in Europe, US, South Africa, Asia and increasingly even to part of Latin AMERICA, who send home cash known as Diaspora remittance to the families and friends.
Nigeria top the list with the highest number of immigrants abroad and this impacts tremendously in both from workers and home averaging a figure of $34 billion dollars annually. With an external reserve as at August 20221 of $34 billion USD, it follows therefore that Diaspora remittance has been added as a defining factor of the economy by the Buhari regime and by all standards, this should sadden us, given the implication for the growth of the economy here.
But like we have repeatedly pointed out, the ruling elites do not give a fuck, they are unmindful that it is their failure at governance that has seen so many working class youth seek for better fortunes outside of Nigeria, what is of concern to them is how to take advantage of this huge pool of fund to solve the desperate need for foreign exchange by members of the billionaire club and of course they are unwilling to buy at a competitive price. This explains the attack on Abokifix.
Closely related to it is the huge flow of cash as well from internet fraud or Advance Fee fraud otherwise known as 419, or Yahoo boys can also not be ignored, this has become the fad, for working class youth who are unable to escape abroad. In Oshogbo in February and March 2021, they organised a protest demanding to be allowed to operate freely without any harassment from the EFFC or the police, since in most cases they are not out to stop them but to clean them dry of their so called “hard sweat and labour”.
While socialist cannot in any sense approved of this misconduct of the “Yahoo boys” of defrauding working folks abroad of their own sweat through non- existing tempting business deals and counting on the huge exchange differentials as a consequence of the decades of devaluation of the national currency that makes them out into instant millionaires here.
The fact however is that the fault for this ugly phenomenon rest squarely on the feet of the ruling elites given their refusal to employ the resources of the country to develop the means of production and bring about a huge generation of jobs in all frontiers of the economy has meant that an increasing numbers of youth have turned to engaging internet fraud as a mean as to earn some income for survival.
The revelations coming from the arrest of Hushpuppi in the US, and the involvement and relationship with our own “super Cop”, only points out how rotten all of the big heads of the institutions in the country are, and that any pretense at combating crime, in whatever form is a ruse, when in reality the crime that needs to be combated is the failure of the ruling elites at governance, with their manifest perfidy of corruption and outright looting of the treasury, and other atrocious acts not seen as crimes.
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
If anything is an indicator of the failure of the Buhari regime, it is in the area of food and agriculture, which demonstrate the utter ineptitude of the Buhari regime. Agriculture is in a worse state, both in the area of crop and herds production. A 50kg bag of rice is N27, 000, a bag of beans which was once N30, 000 in 2019 was N50, 000 is now N100, 000.
All of the staple food items are now priced out of the reach of the working masses,
A lot of Mama Put outlets (Cornerside restaurants) are closing shops unable to meet up with the high cost of food items, those still engaged in it, practically have no other choice than to keep at it to keep themselves busy, raking in loss after losses and inevitably closing down. From every street corner, we can count how many of these eating outlet patronized by the working masses have had to close down unable to meet with the high cost of keeping themselves afloat.
At no other time in the history of the country has inflation impacted heavily on food items, with workers alarmed by it on account that the food items are locally produced, oblivious of the fact that the economy in the end is a unit both of itself and in its many parts, interacting both dialectically and otherwise to be able to function for itself and for each of its single units. Yet the economy is also factored by the polity, which in the end is what defines its micro and macro policy framework. It is this political dictation of neoliberal capitalist philosophy that puts profit making first over and above meeting the food needs of the working masses that has brought the current food crisis to the fore.
The Buhari regime has a means of promoting local production banned some food items from importation, of course without taking the necessary step to employ the wealth of the country and lead the initiative to not only demonstrate the possibility of self-sufficiency in all of these food items, has opened the flood gates for smugglers and custom officials who have employed the scarcity as a means of making millions from the smuggling of these items into the country to meet the huge demand of them, even with local sourced food items in some cases proving more expensive than the imported items, making the ban completely counterproductive.
A workers government anchored on a socialist programme free from the encumbrance of making profit and driven by the need to meet the welfare needs of the working masses would take the step of investing adequately in agriculture, both crop and herds, and ensure that large scale modern farms with all of the necessary equipment are put in place in all parts of the country in relation to the crop produced in the area.
This possibility can so be gleaned in the initiative of the then Ambode regime in Lagos, with the Kebbi state government then to produce what was tagged LAKE Rice. The initial success of the LAKE Rice initiative sold at half the price of other imported brands of rice, partly confirms the correctness of Marxist prognosis, that the state can employ the public funds of society as tools of investment to improve agriculture and indeed all sector of the economy, to meet the needs of the people. And that the very logic of profit making as the driving force of neo liberal capitalist system that is responsible for the crisis in agriculture and all other sectors of the economy.
The vastness of Nigeria, and all of the different possibilities in the area of agricultural produce demonstrates in a dialectic manner how the whole of the country is linked together and needs one another for their mutual survival, but yet this point is not stressed by the different wings of the ruling class who themselves do everything possible for the working masses to be divided against themselves.
At the very core of the dispute of the farmers and the clash with herders is the question of meat production and providing for the protein need both for people in the north and south of the country. The growing desertification in the north with herders forced to move their cattle down south for grass grazing, resulting into clash with farmers, limited in the beginning to the Benue-Plateau axis, Taraba has now become a phenomenon in the south.
The response of the Buhari regime has been to provide backhand support to the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, as oppose to insisting on the need for both farmers and herders to unite and confront their common problems of provision of funds, good road network and transport system that would allow for items to be easily moved from one part of the country to the other, and provision of the necessary storage facilities both stationary and mobile.
The Buhari regime guided by its endorsement of capitalism; a primitive one at that leaves it with no other choice than to subscribe and support open grazing as a right of herders, dictated by the logic of spend as little as possible to allow for as much profit to be made from rearing cattle. The question of ranching automatically increases the cost of production. And for a regime that is in no way committed to developing the means of production to the highest level possible in any modern society in the 2st century, places directly on the agenda the necessity of the working class to independently organise, provide the leadership and programme for the oppressed masses to overthrow capitalism and commence the socialist transformation of the country.
Yet the Buhari regime at the centre is not alone in this, the state governments either in the north or in the south are not any different they are all as guilty. Even in states where legislation has now been passed in Ondo, Lagos, etc banning open grazing, they all completely fall short of addressing the question of how meat will be supplied on the meal table for the working masses.
No alternative arrangement is put in place, governance places no major responsibility on the ruling elites outside of the chance it provides to lord themselves over the wealth of the society, appropriating it to provide for their luxurious lifestyle the best of anything and everything the world can ever offer from where ever.
Yet the permanent state of insecurity in the North has impacted as well on food production and agriculture, over 3 million people displaced, Boko Haram insurgency have seen the killing of more than 30, 000 persons. Making agriculture a complete unsafe work, we need nothing else than this to unveil the falsehood in the statement from the regime that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated” not when the Wall Street Journal recently revealed that the military went visiting bandits paying as much as N20 million to allow for a safe trip of the president to his home states. Even though the Military has come out to deny it.
The fact remains that only a socialist plan of action on agriculture as well as on all the key sectors of the economy can we begin to change the current situation for the betterment of the working masses. With all of the necessary public funds investment to provide all of the needs for farmers, large scale mechanization of farming, with pools of cooperative supports from locality to locality, with seeds, machines, fertilizers, storage facility, transportation and all of the necessary subsidy from the state to ensure that these food crops are accessible and affordable to the working masses. The same thing will apply to cattle, goat and fish, free from the inhibition of producing to making profit, the question of ranching will easily be embraced.
What is clear all of the above analysis of the state of the economy under the Buhari regime is that the working masses, cannot hope to expect any change whatsoever in their fortunes, six years on, is demonstrative enough of the direction the regime is heading, it is incapable of breaking from capitalism, how more apt is Marx when he says that History first occurs as a tragedy but itself as a farce.
Buhari has proved to us that is second coming is indeed a disaster to the working masses, and not capable of seeking a reelection, given the constitutional prevention from seeking another term after a second term, the Buhari regime will seek the remaining part of its tenure to enshrine himself more into the hearts of Big Business, what this will mean is that the working masses, should prepare themselves for attack on their living standards, as the regime gives the green light to Big Business, to make mouse of the working masses in all sectors of the economy.
There is no better time than now pose the question of a SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE, for the working masses to get organise, in and outside of the trade unions, commence campaigns for internal democracy in the unions, struggle to ensure that the unions are organs to defend the interest of the working class, and through such struggles draw all of the revolutionary conclusion to build a political organization of the working people with which to take on the ruling elites and overthrow capitalism. This is the socialist programme with which the working masses can in reality win its emancipation.