Editor’s note: The Nigerian economy is in recession after three straight quarters of negative growth. While Nigerians expressed their misgivings, the federal government gave the reassurance of high-level consciousness of their team about the current situation.
However, Muhammadu Buhari has faced criticism for the manner he has handled the economy which is in recession.
Major international magazines including Financial Times, Bloomberg and some others, in their recent publications strongly condemned the Nigerian leader and his policies in solving the economic crisis.
Financial Times asks the experts to rate President Buhari’s first 18 months in power this term and to say what he should focus on.
John Ashbourne: Mr Buhari (who previously ruled Nigeria as a general) came to office at an incredibly difficult time for Nigeria, but it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he has allowed the economic situation to deteriorate sharply. The president has often seemed aloof and disengaged from day-to-day economic policymaking. His four-month delay in appointing a cabinet created a worrying policy vacuum. And when the president does insert himself into economic policymaking, he seems instinctively drawn to statist, command-and-control policies that are ill-suited to a modern economy. His opposition to a full liberalisation of the foreign exchange market has been disastrous. Nigeria is, yet again, discovering that the economy is too important to be left to the generals.
Charles Robertson: Mr Buhari was unfortunate to come to power as oil prices were halving. This has presented huge challenges. Despite that, he has won success against Boko Haram and led from the top with his anti-corruption focus. It was unfortunate that former British prime minister David Cameron labelled Nigeria deeply corrupt just months after Nigeria’s people had elected a leader determined to stamp on corruption.
Alan Cameron: Mr Buhari’s first-year performance has been mixed. The partial resolution of one armed conflict in the north has coincided with the eruption of another in the Delta, the latter with much greater consequences for the overall economy. Progress on anti-corruption has been good, but economic management has been very inconsistent, which is all the more damaging at a time when Nigeria is relying on more investment from at home and abroad.
Yvonne Mhango: The Buhari cabinet’s first year in office can be described as lethargic. At various forums we have heard cabinet members acknowledge the country’s challenges and make the right noises on diversifying the economy and investing in infrastructure. We now need them to deliver.
Antoon de Klerk: Mr Buhari has faced a massive economic shock, with government revenue halving and exports more than halving, causing a currency crisis, whereas his predecessor enjoyed an oil revenue boom. On the economic policy front he deserves credit for allowing the 50 per cent devaluation of the naira.
Bloomberg says that Nigeria’s economy needs visionary leadership
Africa and the world cannot afford a failing economy in the continent’s most populous nation. Yet that is exactly what Nigeria might be getting: Its economy is on track to shrink by 1.7% this year, the official unemployment rate has more than doubled over the last two years, and inflation is at an 11-year high.
One concrete step President Muhammadu Buhari could take to address the crisis would be to eliminate the country’s disastrous foreign exchange controls. Instead, Buhari has made no secret of his desire to defend Nigeria's currency.
There are other ways to stimulate the economy, of course. But Nigeria’s Senate rejected Buhari’s three-year spending blueprint and an ambitious campaign to borrow $30 billion abroad because they lacked details. Meanwhile, his reluctance to sell off state-owned assets has undermined other efforts to raise revenue.
To be sure, Buhari faced ugly circumstances when he took office in May 2015. The plunge in oil prices had left the economy reeling and government coffers bare, and attacks by Boko Haram were ravaging the country. Yet while some progress has been made fighting both terrorism and corruption, Buhari’s rigid leadership style has made the country's economic problems harder to solve.
Buhari’s election and pledges of good governance rightfully raised expectations across Africa. To fulfill those hopes, however, he will have to demonstrate more flexibility.
Stephanie Findlay, the international journalist, speaks about how Buhari's shine wanes as recession bites harder.
It's not Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's fault that Nigeria's economy is inextricably tied to the global price of oil, now half of its 2014 peak of over $100 per barrel.
But the president's response to the economic crisis has a growing number of people concerned that he doesn't have what it takes to rescue Nigeria from recession.
Warning signs appeared early. Buhari took six months after being elected to name a finance minister, then vowed not to "kill the naira" by devaluing it, against expert advice and with nefarious consequences.
His seemingly lackadaisical attitude to the crashing economy spooked investors who worried that he was ignoring the crisis.
Some polls are already reflecting that sentiment. Last year around this time, Buhari enjoyed an 80% approval rating, reported analysis firm BMI Research.
Compare that to this September, when his approval rating hit just 41%, with voters bearing the brunt of 18% inflation, slow business and sputtering electricity, the result of lower oil and gas output.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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