The outbreak of the dreaded Coronavirus (COVID-19) has redefined and altered a lot of socio-political and economic calculations globally. Largely described as a leveller with no regard for race, age, class or might, the Coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world, including world powers, into a single cage.
Amid the pandemic, economic managers and watchdogs including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are throwing projections bordering on despondency and near flat growth around. In the face of what is going on and obvious shutdown of businesses, it will be difficult to fault their projections on the global economy post-Coronavirus.
From agriculture, financial service sector, aviation to manufacturing, all that the investors see is hopelessness in a fast moving train ramming into bankruptcy. However, despite the seeming state of despair, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, believes otherwise for the Nigerian economy as he draws positive flanks from the desperate moment.
In relating with the situation, Emefiele, whose manifold policy initiatives have practically been responsible for the stable atmosphere as regards food supply amid the pandemic, is seeing things differently.
While the world economy is practically on its kneel and leaders becoming selfish, keeping their local products within, the apex bank’s boss believes it is not anything to wail about but an opportunity to once again look inward, deepen self-reliance and export as well as cut down on large scale import dependence.
Instructively, the COVID-19 pandemic has become an eye opener. While we all wish it disappears soon, the little lesson it has taught the world is enough for forward thinking leaders to retool their economic policies.
This, indeed, is what the CBN governor has envisaged. While this crisis is first and foremost a public health issue, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people worldwide, and counting, the economic damages are unprecedented on several fronts: crude oil prices have declined dramatically to as low as $17 per barrel by the end of March, even before applying the discounts many oil exporters are offering; stock valuations for the NSE-ASI, Nikkei, Dow Jones and FTSE-100 have declined by an average of 23.8 per cent between January and March 2020; global airlines have lost about $252 billion in revenues and across the broad range of industries from hospitality to services.
The pain is growing. These outcomes have expectedly thrown the global economy into a recession, the depth and duration of which is currently difficult to fathom. In fact, IMF predicts that the global economy would decline by three per cent this year.
Around the world, countries have moved away from multilateralism and responded by fighting for themselves with several measures to protect their own people and economies, regardless of the spillover effects on the rest of the world. Relatedly, within the period of the outbreak, a total of 32 countries and territories adopted stringent and immediate export restrictions on critical medical supplies and drugs that were specifically meant to respond to COVID-19.
As of 10th April 2020, an updated count of total export restrictions by the Global Trade Alert Team at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland suggest a total of 102 restrictions by 75 countries. Between February 8 and April 6, India released eight different export notifications banning several drugs and medical supplies including hydroxychloroquine, ventilators, personal protection masks, oxygen therapy apparatus, and breathing devices.
The list remains endless even as United States President, Donald Trump, also invoked the war-era US Defense Production Act to stop major U.S. mask manufacturer, 3M, from export of respirator masks, N95, to Canada and Latin America.
Critically examined, the above narrative is only a pointer to a future economic war that is certain to be won only by countries that have built their structures internally. Fears of a long global recession have also led to worries about unprecedented global food insecurity, with concerns that agricultural production may be dislocated by containment measures that constrain workers from planting, managing and harvesting critical crops.
Rather than seek cooperative and global solutions, several countries have resorted to export restrictions of critical agricultural produce. From all indications, this is the time for Nigeria to become practical, especially with regard to stepping up the manufacturing sector of the economy.
The big questions to be asked remain: What if these restrictions become the new norm? What if the COVID-19 pandemic continues in a second wave or another pandemic occurs in which all borders are shut, and food imports are significantly restricted? What if we cannot seek medical care outside Nigeria and must rely on local hospitals and medical professionals? For how long shall we continue to rely on the world for anything and everything at every time?
While we keep the battle on to ensure minimal damage from the pandemic, we advise the Federal Government and Nigerians alike not to despair but look inward for what would benefit them as individuals and the nation economically post-COVID-19.
Without mincing words, we also advise the Federal Government to, henceforth, expressly put in place policies that will compel multinationals to begin the process of setting up factories in Nigeria instead of making it a dumping ground for their products.
We advise the government to see COVID-19 as an eye opener for it to fix the country’s ailing infrastructure cutting across all sectors.