Okonjo-Iweala And The World Bank: Time For Divorce
-Masterweb Reports (Submission By Kali Gwegwe)
On the 15th of September, 2011; I posted a piece on my blog titled “Okonjo-Iweala: A Patriot Blinded by the West.” This piece was also published by some off and online media. I had attempted to highlight three major points. In the first place, I had wanted to drum home the point that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy has the passion and courage of a true patriot. The second point I wanted to establish was the fact that Okonjo-Iweala was an involuntary “apostle” of western democracies. Thirdly, I was of the opinion that western democracies can only use but never trust “apostles” like Okonjo-Iweala. The outcome of the election to select a replacement for the outgoing World Bank chief, Robert Zoellick has vindicated me. The withdrawal of Colombia’s former finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo from the World Bank presidential race was enough for Okonjo-Iweala to see the spirit of United States celebrating with bottles of champagne on the streets of Washington DC. Sentiment apart, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had a superior credential to occupy the World Bank presidency.
Typical of every vibrant and complex society, some applauded my candid opinion and others poured heaps of condemnation on my head. One fair point to note however is the fact that the criticisms that followed my piece had no capacity to change what was wrong to right. What was then wrong, if one must ask? It was wrong for Okonjo-Iweala to look at Africa with western eyes. While it is true that advancement in science and technology has compressed the world into a global village, we cannot stand on this truism to deny the fact that population, culture, and religion plays critical role in shaping the local economy of every society. Perhaps, owing to the fact that she was an “insider”, Okonjo-Iweala often times acted in manners that suggested she was too informed to accept contrary opinions- especially the ones dressed in the robes of criticism.
Not only was the foundation of her campaign very shallow and stained with racial sentiments, she was undoubtedly a victim of her own characteristic arrogance. Right from the first day she came to work for the Nigerian government during the Obasanjo administration, Okonjo-Iweala has refused to accept the bitter fact that in economics, issues are isolated and treated on their individual merits. Only lazy people who do not believe in themselves will rely on the ideas of others without paying attention to associated evidences and facts. It would also not be fair for any person charged with managing the economy of a nation to rely only on old ideologies or viewpoints of political parties to design fiscal policies. What else can one expect from a World Bank apostle?
Not aware of the hidden agenda of her western mentors, Okonjo-Iweala was deliberately deceived into looking at Nigeria’s economic problems with “western eyes”. It was for this simple reason that she could not accept a fundamental truth spoken by even uneducated women in village markets: every society on the face of the earth has its peculiarities. Sadly, this was the very point her sole opponent and eventual winner of the World Bank presidential election on Monday 16th April, 2012; Jim Yong Kim used to sink her boat. Kim later revealed to the BBC that he would consider the cultural and social peculiarities of various regions to ensure that the Bank’s schemes achieved the desired results.
As part of efforts to successfully use both the IMF and World Bank to secure pole positions in global finance and economy, western democracies intentionally creates the false impression that population, poverty level, culture, and religion does not matter in designing fiscal policies. It was based on this false opinion that Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded the subsidy removal battle against the Nigerian masses. This was what I wrote on my blog: “It must be noted that every society has its own peculiarities. As a result of this, what has worked in country A may not necessarily work in country B. Africans wearing “western eyes” will never realize this fact even though it is profusely clear. For instance, the governor of Nigeria’s Central, Lamido Sanusi and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are all bitterly agitating for the removal of fuel subsidy simply because same has worked elsewhere in America and Europe. Since they are wearing “western eyes”, they have failed to realize that: (a) Unemployment figures are very low in America and Europe (b) An average American or European worker earn as much as $130 or N19,500 per day. With this kind of salary, Nigerians can afford to buy fuel even at N150 per liter.”
If after failing to win the confidence of her mentors, Okonjo-Iweala does not learn anything, repent, and jettison her World Bank “mentality”; President Goodluck Jonathan should waste no time to offload her. Industrialized western democracies have through her, succeeded in turning most Nigerian masses against the president owing to some non-aligning fiscal policies she introduced. We must not forget the fact that one of the veiled aims of the IMF and World Bank is to prescribe fiscal policies that will pitch the masses against governments of developing countries. This is to create crisis and give little or no room for political leaders to build their national economies and secure economic independence. Western nations are afraid that Africa securing economic independence will mean lesser exports and dwindling foreign exchange revenue.
Is it not sad that Okonjo-Iweala suggested the removal of fuel subsidy as a sure way of fighting corruption in the nation’s oil sector? Is this how other countries fight corruption? Subsidy in itself is not a bad idea. Nations introduce subsidy to protect its citizens. As you read this, the EU subsidizes agriculture and fisheries and yet advice Nigerian government to withdraw fuel subsidy. This is not just ironic but suspicious. The fiscal policy of fuel subsidy removal is directly in conflict with the World Bank’s commitment to fighting poverty in developing countries. We are aware that the partial removal of fuel subsidy in January has expectedly jumped the prices of goods and services thereby weakening the purchasing power of a greater percentage of Nigerians. The direct consequence is increase in poverty level. Those that used N20,000 to meet the needs of their families now require about N40,000 or more to do same because the cost of transport, rent, food, education, and health care services have climbed up the ladder.
I have always maintained that just as there are many ways to kill a rat, there are also many ways to remove fuel subsidy. It is quite sad that Okonjo-Iweala preferred the option that will serve the parochial interest of her western mentors. We are no longer fools.
CEO, Nigeria Democracy Watchtower
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