Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Report card on Jonathan

The latest Economist contains a good analysis of Jonathan's presidency. A good conclusion to a study of Nigeria.

Groping forward: One and a half cheers for the economy. None for security
PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN recently invited a group of businessmen to a cattle ranch for a retreat to discuss how to generate faster economic growth. At one point he handed the assembled notables unmarked brown envelopes. Raised eyebrows rippled around the room. The president often castigates corruption. Yet he motioned for the tycoons to open the envelopes. Inside they found not cash but blank pieces of paper, on which he asked them each to write the names of three rent-seeking officials hurting their businesses, promising to investigate.

It is the sort of story Nigerians like to hear about their president, following his re-election in April…

All the same, the high expectations that came with the president’s re-election may not be met. His signature policy, a plan to liberalise the electricity industry, has plainly fallen behind schedule. The start of privatisation has slipped from this year to next. Most Nigerians have no more than a few hours of mains supply a day—the economy’s single biggest bottleneck. Africa’s most populous nation gets as much grid power as a mid-size European city.

If power reform fails, the country’s hopes of becoming a G-20 economy in the next decade will remain fanciful, despite its vast size, plentiful resources and undoubted entrepreneurial spirit. Warning lights are flashing. The unemployment rate in the formal economy has reached a new high of 21%. Inflation has spiked…

A proposed phasing out of fuel subsidies is making people tense. The plan is sound in theory. The government spends billions of dollars every year on refined fuel it buys on international markets and retails for only 60 cents a litre at home. Smugglers take some of it to neighbouring countries for resale at full value. Better to spend money on roads and power stations, says the government. Yet poor Nigerians fear that corrupt officials will pocket the savings…

Public security has sharply worsened. Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group, was once a nuisance confined to the far north-east. It has now extended its reach across the country…

During his election campaign the president talked of improving relations between the country’s Muslim north and Christian south. Instead the gulf is deepening…

Still, many Nigerians remain optimistic. They are used to bad news, and there is still a bit of the good sort. Millions are being lifted out of poverty every year, though at a slower rate than in some other booming African countries. The president has also had some foreign-policy successes…

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