Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth: How Private Sector is Under-socializing our Economy

Undeniably, questions about the economy or government system of the federation has been on the front burner, nationally and across the globe. However, the fire therein has been escalated by political fuel, which has led to socio-economic carbonated or toxic emission, following the series of ripple effects and confounding consequences (at both local, state and federal) of recent past election or rather political duel that took place earlier this year in the country.

Resultantly, the culmination of the electoral processes (powerhouse of political system) with the economic system has created an illusion or reality of an engineered coincidence or collision of the government system with the economic system by the political majors and economic key actors of the country. As such, the ‘interface –ability’  of these two systems (economic and government) shouldn’t be taken, more or less, of a socioeconomic or political  déjà vu, bearing in mind the common confusion of profits (money) and politics (power).

However, in an effort  to have a clearer or healthier thinking and interpretation of the message of the  socio-economic episodic drama  that is been  stage  before us by the administration of President Buhari,  we compatriots would do ourselves s and the nation more good by reminding ourselves that the intersection point of economy system and government system remains clearly undefinable from history till present, considering the common and inherent pitfalls anyone is bound fall into when attempting to establish the differences or similarities between the elemental concepts of both systems, economic and government.  How do I mean? For example, a concept like capitalism refer adherently to economic systems while another  like fascism or communism  may refer to a type  government system, and at the same time a type of economic system.

Generally, the government -rather policies or politics- seats at the helm of economic affair of any nation. As such, it follows suit that the economic style adopted of a nation is often a function of the presiding government ruling pattern. In the same light, regardless of the clearly and unclearly defined difference or similarities of the government or economic systems; capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism and mixed system, they are on the overall, determined on the Libra scale of whom between the sectors (public or private) predominates or dominates the major affairs of the economy of a nation.

In other words, who between the sectors (public or private) assumes the upper shoulder of responsibility in a nation’s overall mechanism of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services to meet people’s needs and ever growing wants. That is, who between the private and public sector takes the lead role in determining and providing what is produced, how goods are produced, for whom it is produced and how much is produced in a nation as they are the four cardinal determinant of a nation’s GDP.

However, there has been historical and unending argument on what type of the government or economy system creates the most favorable atmosphere or condition for an inclusive prosperity and sustainable economic growth and development. That is, trying to determine correctly, which one between the a public or private sector holds the higher potential and power in taking the nation out of the ocean of socio economic and environment abjection into that of sustainable and all-inclusive prosperity has become increasingly difficult, especially by the gains and pains of socio-economic and environmental phenomena like urbanization, Information Technology  and global warming,   that have saturated the globe and the Africa in particular.

However, the global and repetitive attempts to give a correct and applicable answer to the tiresome question, ‘what type of government or economic system is most favourable for inclusive and sustainable economic growth?’  is, more or less, a question of shadow as it has succeeded in putting the world more in the dark than in light.

With the advent of a more critical and advanced understanding, by virtue of the consequences and cognizance of socio-economic phenomenon and environmental changes of the 21st Century, the underlying factors or conditions that methodologically constitute the establishment of any kind of economic or government system has exposited that the real or right question ought to be asked should be directed to address the prevailing conditions –per time – in either scenario. That is, be it a predominantly private or public sector driven economy or government system.

In present-day or newly revised world where much been said and agreed universally on the roles of private sector as engine of growth and development of modern day economy as it  ; grows and promotes economic exponentially, provides   choice to customers and valuable goods and services, creates opportunity for people to realize dreams, encourages positive traits like hard-work and creativity, reproaches negative traits such as laziness and complacency that affect the economy, is not paradoxical that we yet basking in the reality of an anguished and languished economy?

Though  a lot has been said on the role of private sector in growth to economy, much less have be said and on what conditions the sector to harvest and harness the growth that would eventuate into Inclusive development  and sustainable economic growth of our nation.  Some of these conditions or concept ;corruption, underperforming of the economy, under-ageing of the economy  and under-diversifying of the economy were given basis and explained in  a previous article of mine  titled ‘How the Private Sector is Increasingly Causing Non-inclusive and Unsustainable Economic Growth in the Nation.’

Pathetically, the country has been smacked-down into socioeconomic gloom because the national system (particularly private sector) has failed to assume and acknowledge its increasing roles by not embracing and addressing the underlying or prevailing conditions that is right and ripe for either a predominantly private and public sector driven economy in the nation; factors like, the government system- corruption, socio-economic and environmental phenomena borne by the 21st Century.

In corollary, the actions, however reserved, of the presidency is widely misinterpreted both politically and socio-economically, following his numbered efforts to re-gear and U-turn the major privatization programmes started by previous governments: in the petroleum sector, his administration  refrained from selling the Nigeria’s refineries that was earlier set in motion started by previous governments; equally, his excellency recently ordered a probe on the sale of NITEL to private investors in 2014. In the same vein, the imperative call to recover another of the country’s major economic sector, power, from the hands of the private sector it was transferred to over the last 16 months might be harkened to by Mr. President judging from the footsteps of his governance.

In the same manner, the privatization of the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) hits brick-wall recently in the 100 days anniversary of  the present government administration as bidders started withdrawing their bid bonds in purchasing and taking control of the 10 power plants built by the Federal Government through the Niger Delta Power.

Likewise, The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said while delivering a key speech at the 55th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja that official corruption via privatization of public enterprises led to massive losses in public revenue

However, to the surprise of many when President Muhammadu Buhari orated or aired-out his confounding stand on privatization when he assured investors –national and – international that his administration would bolster major privatization programmes but with “improved moral architecture.” Adding that, the sector will assume a broader role as part of the engine of growth. In other words, the president is setting the terms straight for privatization to deliver an Inclusive and sustainable economic growth of the nation.

Accordingly, there is been a growing global movement committed to resisting privatisation –private sector. Across Europe, for instance, there has recently been a wave of outcry and shout-down of privatisation proposals particularly in form protests in Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. In Athens, protesters and activist, including women, were seen holding Greek flags in front of the Greek parliament during an anti-austerity demonstration in an effort to resist and protest against the privatisation of state water companies, warning that it would be a backward step for the country. In the same light, while Germany has been criticised for pushing Greece to sell off its water utilities, many of Europe’s largest cities, including Berlin, are buying back the government utilities   they previously sold as they have diligently making tangible and tenacious efforts to re-municipalise their socio economy sectors. Similarly, Ukraine is rethinking, retracing and retracting its footsteps towards Privatisation acknowledging that it is high-time the country finally eluded  the legacy of corrupt privatisation, particularly because the increasingly pressing issues in  the energy sector.

Likewise, in Trafalgar Square, London, a petition signed by over 133,000 people, including women, has been delivered on 80th day of strikes for members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) to the head of security by the union’s vice president National Gallery after staff went on strike over concerns about the privatisation of one of our country’s greatest cultural assets.

Equally, in faraway Tiruchi , Indian, Southern Railway Masdoor Union (SRMU)  staged a protest at Golden Rock on September 2, 2015  led by S. Veerasekaran,  the deputy general secretary of the union, opposing privatisation and Foreign Direct Investment in the railways. The protest, which was part of the nationwide call of various unions to dissuade the Central government from trying to involve private players in the railways was partook of by also women who raised slogans against privatisation and bringing of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country’s railways system.

In Lahore, the capital city of the Pakistani, Protesters led by Khurshid Ahmad, general secretary of All Pakistan WAPDA Hyrdo Electric Union, were seen chanting slogans against the government over its plans to privatise power distribution companies, Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC).

Coming down to Africa, particularly Nigeria, privatisation has increasingly demoted and remoted human rights especially to basic amenities like water and sanitation which has successfully resulted in the  under-socialization  our economy and environment.

In our    society where most women and girls have increasingly turned ‘macho-men’ not because of transgender medical surgery but a socioeconomic deformation   stemming from the torrents of economic hardship that still very much thrive in major part of the African continent, the motion to privatize or establish a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) in the   water sector only poses to intensify the austerity of the economy, particularly as it affects the women and girls of society.

Accordingly, most countries in Africa are classified as   high priority countries for aid investment in basic amenities as over 70 percent lack access bare minimum amenities like water and sanitation. The ratio of women that have access to bare-minimum of social amenities is saddening even though other countries like Bangladesh and Kenya are already increasing and promoting the right  citizens, particularly women, by making available, accessible and affording basic social and technological amenities.

As such, Women and girls are appalled and threatened by indignity and insecurity as they are subject to the absence of privacy and safe and hygienic of going about their characteristic responsibility of personal and environmental sanitation due to inaccessibility and unaffordability of basic amenities like water. Bearing in mind that Women and girls cannot afford to stay any less hygienic else they and their environment might be haven for illness -transferable to children- and other epidemic diseases, they may not have or stand a better chance upon the privatization of water, thereby dehumanizing the society and victimizing the people by pushing farther the right of citizens to basic amenities and infrastructure. In the same line, the characteristic tenderness of women might be averted as they generally regarded as fragile or delicate beings that need extra attention and support.

To this end, experts have formed a coalition to kick against water privatisation in nation and across the continent as they have gone ahead to launch and carryout focused actions towards promoting the human right to water, thereby fostering a more socialised economy. Recently, in a two-day Lagos Water Summit with the theme: Connecting Local Outrage to Global Resistance of Corporate Control of Water organized by ERA/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) in partnership with AUPCTRE, PSI, Transnational Institute, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt & Development, and Freedom from Debt Coalition, they unitedly put up a fight against corporate control of water and securing water as a human right.

The initiative by a network of civil society, represented a growing global movement committed to not allowing the privatization of water to witness daylight and equally, securing or protecting human right, drew participants, stakeholders and partners from local, national and international countries like Belgium, Ghana, Philippine, and the United States.

Likewise, there has been an ongoing high-tension debate on the proposed privatization of the Health Sector of the country.  While many stakeholders believe privatization is the way forward to successfully nip the intractable problem and incessant crises of the sector in the bud, others, including the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) hold the view that privatizing public health facilities would further widen the gap of access to health care services for people, particularly the poor and women who are known for having need of special care especially during pregnancy and after childbirth , both for themselves and the babies.

In a petition of high semblance with that of National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London, JOHESU which comprises nurses, laboratory scientists, pharmacists and other professionals in the health sector petitioned President Buhari to refrain and desist from privatising public health facilities as it is against the overall interest of the public and the restructuring in such fiscal manner will impend damage(s) to the healthcare sector.

Equally, by the same token of a characteristic distressed economy of the African continent, children and youth have been made adult before their time by been subjected to steroids of abuse and enslavement as they let loose on the street to fend for themselves at very young age of their lives.  Accordingly, fragility of our social, political, and economic is said to be on the rise with over 53% of African nations categorized to be in fragile state due to losing of jobs and increased unemployment, owing to privatisation of public assists in the nation and continent at large.

For foremost reason, the headwind against privatisation of public assets, especially those concern with human right in form of basic amenities, originates from there the fact there is an inevitable likelihood of trade-off of affordability and accessibility for high cost which is anti-social and doesn’t promote Inclusive and sustainable economic growth.  For other obvious socio-economic reasons like officiated corruption and challenged governance, there is been a growing global movement committed to resisting privatisation or a Public-Private Partnership arrangement of public assets- particularly those assets or sectors that are heavily tied to human rights to basic amenities like water, sanitation, power, health and others. As such, dehumanizing or under-socialising the economy because people, particularly women, cannot afford and access the resources.  Nigeria’s current population of about 160 million ,comprise of female than male,  is estimated to increase to 200 million by 2020, which is then projected to double in another 30 years. Thus, if nothing is done at this junction to the socialization of the economy, it would increase in multiple folds in coming years.

However, the government, state or federal, may have many legitimate intentions like diversification of economy or substantiated reasons for selling off or privatising the public assets as it is deemed a strategic to raise money for dry pocket of the government to fund project, we ought to remind ourselves one thing that a sell-off brings in a one-off injection of cash, rather than the long-term improvement in the public finances or budget. In other words, Privatisation betrays a short-term view of debt or it is not rescue or free an economy of long-term costs because when the government sells an asset, it gains a huge cash but loses the future income stream which in fact sustains an economy on the long run. That is, flogging off public assets won’t succeed in reducing the nation’s indebtedness on the long term, comparing both sides of the national balance sheet – assets and liabilities – into account and as they affect the GDP of the country.

As such, it is myopic for privatisation to be prioritised especially for fiscal reasons as it consequences goes beyond raising money, it’s about changing, in entirety, parts of the economy. As such, privatisation more often than not, it is not in the long-term and overall interest of the public as it austerity-led and not prosperity-led. It’s a system that do only lock people out of economic prosperity but it also cuts their tongue so that no one can call for help. How do I mean? Workers lose their jobs and at the same time, trade unions, who are more efficacious in calling and standing for right workers might be sniffed out or suffocated there by making sociologist, economist, environmentalist and even politicians to see privatisation as back-door to a new form of colonisation of 21 century.

Across the globe, particularly the African continent, serious challenges are been posed by the contention of human right and the role of business or profit-making as there is an increasing deprivation of locals of their right, like that to safe and potable water. Accordingly, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or privation  of basic amenity – custodian  human right  sector- are not the solution to the challenges face in such sector, but rather a new form of colonialism  which is aggressing  and distressing the economy. In other words, market forces coming on the heels of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) or privation cannot human guarantee rights to basic amenities as they  defines success in terms of profit rather than affordability and accessibility.

Referentially, the failure of the World Bank’s privatization of basic amenities, like the water system in Manila, Philippines, is a cautionary example of the dire consequences adopting PPP model or privatisation of public assets that primarily seats on human right.  Accordingly, over 70 per cent of Nigerians, inclusive of those who live in the rural areas, cannot afford services of basic amenities and resources, consequentially making them victims of unsecured or unprotected human rights.

Factually, the socio-economic Status-quo of women (both young and old) and youth in general are the key performance indicator or indices of how socialised an economy is. Therefore, women’s rights and the rights of other vulnerable groups is critical in the realization and attainment of the human right to basic amenities and as should be accorded due and adequate priority in government planning and policy in the nation and across Africa. In other words, Women and children are at the receiving end of struggling economy o that is a society that is in huge lack finance and basic infrastructures or amenities to its people.

Thus, in a bid to resituate and accelerate the socialization of our economy, there must be a growing integration of investment and actions geared towards the repossessing, building strong and expanding the public assets and systems. Socioeconomic sectors  of the nation and continent can be re-municipalise by buying back the government utilities that   they previously sold or privatised as it witnessed in many of Europe’s largest cities, including Berlin. Equally, a system that offers opportunities to build local democratic governance of basic amenities like water and infrastructure must be established.

Invariably, the intersection point between the right of Women, children and other vulnerable of people and the affordability/ accessibility of their right is important in reading and understanding the thermometer of well-socialised economy. As such, the need to connect the tumult of local communities at the grassroots level through Community Development Associations (CDAs) to global resistance of corporate Control of basic amenities in form of campaigns against the privatisation and human right of the pubic assets is necessitated and compelling.

At government level, a  bill to guarantee access to human right (for example, water) should be promoted both at House of Assembly  at both  State and national level which would go down the line to thwart the  privatisation  of public assets that primarily affects human right in Nigeria and across the African Region. Additionally, surcharge on tariff of basic amenities may be put forward to stopped or be reduced by the legislature on basic amenities or infrastructure.

Albeit privatization has been a topic or interest for the past 15-20 years as It has been laudable in Eastern Europe, some cases in the US, and in third world countries under the influence of the IMF, World Bank among other global regional socio-economic and environmental bodies and agencies, It’s not a perfect system and fellow compatriots and taxpayers shouldn’t be duped or lured into thinking they’re getting something for nothing. Perhaps at this junction, rather than we people choose to be or remain political or socio-economical antagonist by taking wrongly, the advantage of move of President to reclaim some part of the public sector, we may now all understand and correspond much better with the governance or economic system of the new president and hope his excellency administrative cabinet gets formed soonest.

Conclusively, the nation cannot afford to hold out privatisation to replace bad government as Maude Barlow, a Canadian author and human rights activist said of her years of experimentation with privatisation in developing countries that; the best answer to bad government is good government, not privatisation.

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