Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria

By Tom Forrest | Go to book overview

8
Civil Rule and Economic Policy, 1979-1983

Economic policy and its dynamic interaction with economic, social, and political forces over the four years of the Second Republic are examined in this chapter. This was a period in which a sharp decline in oil revenues plunged the economy into recession. Stripped of the veneer of much of its foreign exchange earnings, the difficulty of converting oil into productive assets was revealed. This difficulty was aggravated in the period under review by the scale of capital flight that fed foreign interests and a tiny Nigerian elite. Also exposed were large deficits on non-oil trade accounts in industry, services and agriculture. This was a time, too, when a gross materialism that had built up through the long oil boom reached its apogee in the life-style of some politicians and their business associates, who spawned a group of private jet owners. 1 It was also the era of a menial Ghanaian underclass, numbering hundreds of thousands, who found employment in Nigerian cities and were expelled once the recession started to bite.

The rule of the politicians had disastrous economic consequences for Nigeria. Civil politics superimposed its own stamp upon the conduct of economic affairs at the same time as it reinforced certain trends that I have already traced through the period of military rule. These trends included the loss of financial control and discipline in the public economy, the privatisation of public funds, and the continued expansion of the state sector.

The period opened up with oil revenues on a rising trend and a comfortable stock of foreign exchange reserves bequeathed by the outgoing military government. The timing of this increase in oil revenues was important, for it was already under way when the politicians arrived and continued for another eighteen months. This miniboom was sufficient to impart a strong upward momentum to state expenditures and to inflate the scale and costs of projects. It also set in motion other features that find parallels in the earlier oil boom. For example, imports were liberalised and

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