Wrong time for PMS, electricity price hikes (2)
HAVING forced through the deregulation and subsidy removal policy which it now blames previous regimes of lacking the “courage” to implement, the Buhari regime owes Nigerians an unreserved apology for truncating it during our economic boom nine years ago.
In spite of the dirty politics associated with the deregulation and subsidy removal, we, however, see it as a welcome development.
Unfortunately, this policy is being implemented reactively. The Federal Government only dropped subsidy when it realised it could no longer fund it.
If it were adopted as a strategic policy and part of Buhari’s vision for the total overhaul of our national infrastructure, Nigerians would have been happier to bear the higher prices.
The Federal Government could have, as a means of rewarding the citizenry with its proceeds, revived the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, which Buhari had headed under the General Sani Abacha regime as its Executive Chairman.
This was exactly what Abacha did when he increased the prices of petroleum products in 1994. By 1999, it had yielded the hefty sum of N144.51bn. Buhari’s PTF was given untrammelled powers to deploy the fund in almost every facet of infrastructural interventions.
When Olusegun Obasanjo, as president, scrapped the PTF amidst allegations of large-scale corruption, many Nigerians were disappointed, especially as Obasanjo did not establish any credible substitute despite raising the price of petroleum products several times.
Apart from going back on their promise to the people, the Federal Government’s twin punches of subsidy withdrawal and over 100 per cent hike in electricity charges coming at the same time smack of policy insensitivity.
Nigerians are still reeling from the multiple effects of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The economy is not even fully open, as many sectors have remained shut in ongoing efforts to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs, and many of those still employed have been forced to take pay cuts. The Naira has lost ground to foreign currencies and employers are finding it difficult to operate.
The pandemic has worsened the poverty woes of Nigeria. Many countries are still providing palliatives to their people and injecting stimuluses to their economies.
Choosing this moment to implement such quantum price increases shows that government is not thinking about the people in its economic plans.
These increases should be held off until the economy stabilises to enable the people carry the burden.
Even if the subsidy withdrawal goes ahead the electricity price hike must wait as there is no assurance that it will bring about improved power supply.
We hope the proposed dialogue between government and Organised Labour will bring about a compromise to boost our economic recovery efforts.
Written by Kartia Velino