Today is my birthday. I thank God for giving me the life and time on earth he has provided me. He has blessed me beyond the ability of words to describe;
I am more than cognizant of His great mercies toward me. I have much to be thankful for. However, this is not the moment for exuberant celebration or light talk on my part.
At this moment, it is better that we confer in prudence and wisdom, one to another, so that we can better deal with that which seems eager to severely deal with us.
We have entered a sobering period. We face a challenge we cannot see but one that can find us all too easily. As individuals, this puts every one of us at a startling disadvantage. Each is rendered vulnerable by the reckless act of his neighbour.
Each is made safer by the enlightened conduct of a stranger. The very nature of this assailant calls us toward greater unity and kindness.
In the normal push of our daily affairs, we tend to focus on what divides us. We are either APC, PDP or another political affiliation.
One person is rich. Another is poor. There is the labourer then there is the boss. One person is of the north, another of the south, with both often acting as if the boundary between the two cannot be traversed.
We are of different ethnic groups; these identities mean so much to us that we behave as if the affiliations are the very source of our humanity. In this, we tend to forget God.
For the past 11 years, a colloquium was held on my birthday. Each year, the colloquium gathered some of our best minds in both the public and private sectors. They would dissect and explore the weighty issues of the day in order to find solutions to the social, political and economic difficulties that confront our nation. However, the threat of the coronavirus obligated colloquium organizers to postpone the event;
We did not want a large number of people gathered in a relatively compact physical space. This was a decision well taken. It has been a custom at the colloquium that I offer a few comments pertaining to the issue at hand.
It has been a custom at the colloquium that I offer a few comments pertaining to the issue at hand. In the spirit of the colloquium, I offer these remarks today. In that coronavirus put a brake on the colloquium, I thought it proper to return the favour.
I therefore tender these humble comments in hope they contribute to halting the spread and ill consequences of this dreadful sickness.
Already, the price of oil has fallen to less than 30 dollars a barrel. This will bring a dollar shortfall. This does not, however, necessitate a corresponding shortfall in public sector naira expenditures. The US controls dollar issuance.
We control naira issuance as is our sovereign right. Just as America has used its sovereign right to issue its currency to stave economic disaster, so too may Nigeria issue naira for the same purpose.
In all of this, the international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank must be cooperative and forward-leaning. These institutions must discard their mainstream orthodoxy of fiscal austerity which will straitjacket and injure nations like ours.
They must encourage nations to engage in economic stimulus. Moreover, they must suspend debt repayments for poor and developing nations and begin to fashion a plan of partial debt forgiveness for indebted nations.
Below are a few preliminary thoughts on the economic action we might take should the coronavirus mortally threaten our economy:
(1) MAINTAIN GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURES;
(2) GOVERNMENT PROJECTS;
(3) TAX REDUCTIONS;
(4) FOOD SECURITY;
(5) LOWER INTEREST RATES;
(6) QUANTATIVE EASING;
(7) EXCHANGE RATE;
(8) DEBT SUSPENSION;
(9) INCREASE STIPENDS TO THE POOR
The Central Bank should be prepared to enact extraordinary measures should the financial sector exhibit stress. The CBN should be prepared to give banks liberal access to its loan discount window to ensure adequate liquidity within the banking sector.
Also to ensure liquidity, the CBN should be willing to expand its balance sheet and improve liquidity by purchasing government bonds and other instruments held by banks and other institutions.
The Cash Reserve Requirement for banks should be revised downward. Also to ensure liquidity, the CBN should be willing to expand its balance sheet and improve liquidity by purchasing government bonds and other instruments held by banks and other institutions.
In conclusion, I proffer these measures not as some comprehensive solution. I hope these ideas spark needed dialogue about the ways we may need to employ to protect our nation from assault by the coronavirus. I do not know if such a confrontation shall come.
What I do know is that wise preparation will carry us close to victory. Unity, compassion and brave implementation of good policy will take us the rest of the way home.
We shall not go down. We shall rise.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu