Thinking NIMASA in the Eye of Revenue Administrative Accountability and Economic Advancement of the Nation – Vol. 1
By Eugene Nweke

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Background

I am being mostly concerned with the thoughts of what manner of ministries and agencies we are bequeathing to the future Nigerian civil servants and administrators infact, the question of what legacy are we leaving behind for the future generation never stopped bugging my mind.

Today, Nigeria economic mainstay has been mainly on oil exportations. But experience has shown that natural resources can run out, mineral deposits are finite, while over exploitation of renewable resources whose supplies are in principle infinite (e.g. fish, forest) can make them disappear.

Worst still, wealth based on natural resources can be rapidly eroded, especially, where the revenue proceeds are not properly harnessed and plowed back into industrialization and technological advancement. However, this is not to say that it is impossible to become rich by relying on natural resources, but such nation must have a huge stock of natural resources in order to be able to maintain an adequate living standard.

Again economic development without investment to enhancing productive capabilities is near impossibility. Enhanced productive capabilities deals with the ability of a nation to articulate and increase its investment prowess in “the creation and establishment of industries”, precisely, “manufacturing industry” (industry includes activities like mining or the generation and distribution of electricity or gas)

It has being said that, nothing contributes more to promoting the public well being as the exportation of manufactured goods and the importation of foreign raw materials,  more so, for the promotion of our infant industries, instead of propagating the import policies that tends towards substituting  industrialisation.

Switzerland maintained the highest per capital manufacturing output in the world by the year 2002, was literally rated the most industrialized country in the world, to set a spectacular contemporary example of a manufacturing success based economy.

Another manufacturing success bases economy is Singapore, a city state that has succeeded as a financial centre and trading port, today is a highly industrialised country producing 35 per cent more manufacturing output per head of population than some of the industrial powerhouse like Korea and the United States of America (USA).

In the present day Nigeria, it is assumed that 85 per cent of our national and daily needs are imported, even to little things such as tooth picks, which promotes an “import dependent economy” of no purposeful economic developments.

Though it has been argued whether as a nation, we should skip ‘‘industrialisation’’ and move directly to the ‘service economy’ as per the Indian success in services outsourcing or not.

There is no gain saying, stating that certainly some services  have high productivity and considerable scope for further productivity growth, like the banking and other financial services, management consulting, technical consulting and IT supports,, but it is not so with most other services. Therefore, it is instructive to note that, without a strong manufacturing sector, it is impossible to develop high productivity services, this is the reason why no country has become rich solely on the basis of its service sector.

Nigeria been rated as one nation endowed with various and abundant natural and human  resources is still wallowing in faulty economic policy planning or rather basking on un structural and unreliable economic  policies and administrative inefficiency. Experience has shown that one of Nigerian greatest undoing,( deterring  rapid economic advancement) is political maladministration and uneven distribution of proceeds from natural resources, among other impeding factors.

Indeed, it cannot be argued that government officials in many developing countries are not highly trained , but it is not true that countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan succeeded with interventionist policies because it was clear that their bureaucracies were manned by exceptionally well trained government officials.

A glance into the economic planning of India in comparison with that of Korea shows that; Indian early economic plans were cutting edge stuff for their time, because their economic plans were based on a sophisticated economic model developed by the world famous statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis.

It is important to note that, Korean economic plan was developed by perhaps a fourth rated Professor Winters, but the Korean economy did far better than the Indian economy.

These proves that a nation may not really need First best economists to run good economic policy, it is reasonable to say that we need smart people to run good economic policy and such smart people do not neccessarily have to be the first best economists. For instance; Japanese economic officials are not economists but mostly lawyers by training.

In Taiwan, most of its key economic bureaucrats were engineers and scientists rather than economists as is the case in China today.

Though the  World Bank in its famous Asian Miracle report, published in 1993, advised other developing countries without the competence, insulation and relatively lack of corruptibility of the public administrations not to emulate the interventionist Japan and Korean trade and industries policies,  It argued that such policies cannot work, on the grounds that; if government officials in position of authority to making these important choices are incapable or incompetent, their intervention can only make things worse.

It is against this background, that I took to a deep studying of the too many functions and watching with keen interest the activities of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency  (NIMASA), especially from the point of view that an economy such as ours, needed government agencies that will take a lead as to deciding or choosing which industries should be promoted or what sector needed to be invested in for us to kick start a process of true national economic recovery and repositioning.

Unfortunately, inspite of the level of revenue generation statistics from 2006 to 201 (as explained below), it is obvious that NIMASA and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) revenue measures and ranked itself as a major earner after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), even before the Nigeria Customs yearly revenue generation report, such accrued revenue, if properly harnessed
and channelled towards industrial development, would have addressed so many challenges confronting the nation.

 

Observations and Worries

     I am particularly worried on the following observations:

It has been observed that; appointment of high ranking civil servants and ministers are made on the basis of patronage rather than merit.

It is now a common place to allocate public offices/contracts to loyalists of the ruling party, regardless of their professional qualifications/experience.

Executives in most of our respected companies hire people at near slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions and in most cases embarks on careless spending speck to funding or cover up their financial misapplication and illegalities.

In the place of bribery, bribe is a transfer of wealth from one person to another. It does not necessarily have negative effects on the economic efficiency and growth; especially if bribes are invested back into the economy.

Money paid as bribes, is corruption that can create a variety of economic problems by distorting government decisions and in most cases do whittle down or hampers regulatory powers of the government. Example is the license permit for operating flour or cement mill where efficient producers that are morally upright but refuses to pay bribes, in which case corruption will allow a less efficient producer to get the license/permit.

Truly, dishonesty exists in the private sectors too as deregulation increases corruption in the private sector via private sector crookedness and monopoly, which ignores the template for economic policy formulation and enforcements because corruption is usually defined as the abuse of public office for personal gains.

More so, that, politicians have proved to be wily investors using political contacts to manipulate and stagnate a system; though some of them reinvest their ill-gotten wealth into the system, instead of shipping them to Sweden.

May this suggest for instance, why Robert Walpole, queried when he was accused of corruption in parliament in 1730, freely admitted that he had great estates and asked “… having held some of the most lucrative offices for nearly 20 years, what could anyone expect, unless it was a crime to get estates by great offices.” He turned the tables on his accusers by asking them, “how much greater a crime it must be to get an estate by lesser offices?”

I do agree with him, that, “if a new form of representation for the majority does not emerge in our political sphere and the work place, the elite politicians and the ruling party will endlessly become more powerful and thus, democracy becomes less distributive in the future.”

When men and women are rewarded for greed, greed becomes a corrupting motivator. When we equate the gluttonous consumption of the earth’s resources with a status approaching sainthood, when we teach our children to emulate people who live unbalanced lives and when we define huge sections of the population as subservient to an elite minority, then someone is asking for trouble and will likely get it.

At this juncture, it is also worthy to note that, “empires never last. It rises and fall terribly having destroy many cultures as they race toward greater quest for domination. No country or combination of countries can thrive in the long term by exploiting others.’’ The same is applicable to both private and governmental organisations.

The idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. This concept also, has corollary; that those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation.

This is an erroneous concept; because, in many countries economic growth (without even distribution of wealth) benefits only a small portion of the population and may in fact result in increasingly desperate circumstances for the majority. This is the seeming scenario in Nigeria.

Perhaps, this is why as far back in 1883, America’s Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act and Pendleton Act were enacted to tackle the rampant abuse or misuse of public offices, Pendleton Act required that 50 per cent of the most important job or offices are to be competitively filled, which is not applicable in Nigeria context.

 

New Public Management (NPM) Policy Applications – The Corruption Within

    It is global sentiment that, financial deregulation and relaxation of accounting standards have led to insider trading and false accounting. Deregulation can also increase the power of private sector monopolies, which expands the opportunities for their unscrupulous purchasing managers, head of agencies, ministers to take bribes from sub-contractors.

We have seen in most cases that, most of the foreign investors are more corrupt in their overseas activities than they do in their own country. It has been noted that the best way to tackle corruption is to introduce more market forces into both the private and public sectors. This was followed by the introduction of a measure called “New Public Management (NPM)” – this measure tries to increase administrative efficiency and reduce corruption by introducing market forces known as “outsourcing or contracting out”, a more active rise in performance-related pay and short term contracts and a more active exchange of personnel between the public and private sectors.

The introduction of New Public Management (NPM) Policy has increased corruption by promoting trade liberalisation, which weakens government finances and in turn makes corruption thrives and difficult to fight.

Another critical market force known as deregulation was introduced to not only increase economic efficiency but also reduce corruption by depriving politicians and bureaucrats of the very powers to allocate resources that will give them the ability to extract bribes in the first place.  Unfortunately, while deregulation has introduced other forms of corruptions, NPM inspired reforms measure have increased rather than reduced corruption. Today, increased contracting out promotes more contracts with the private sector, creating new opportunities for bribes. Today, public officials are tempted to befriend future employers by bending or even breaking the rules for them, expecting payback in the future.  Such public officials can later be engaged in a plum job with the private firm, a lobbying organisation or even in international agencies.

Government contracts, jobs and licenses (concessions or privatisation) in the past eight years, thus appear to be a shadow of corrupt executions as public offices were abused to promote profiteering, which resultantly paved way for extreme racketeering seen in the process of liberalisation and privatisation in government much canvassed reform programmes.

Regrettably, our reform programmes are not duly factored via an act of the parliament (like the famous Britain 1832 Reform Act).  Our system here appears to promote self originated reform policy of every administration that comes to power, thereby jettisoning such policy as soon as another administration emerges – a retrogressive progress.

  Chief Eugene Nweke is a freight forwarder. He wrote from Lagos.

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