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Vanguard Newspaper 13 February 2018

30 — Vanguard,

30 — Vanguard, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2018

Vanguard, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2018 — 31 Bottlenecks to our Industrial future AS I understand it, the current administration is rolling-out the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, through the so-called ‘industrial labs’. We welcome these efforts. At the same time, we urge that this exercise be linked to an agriculture-based industrial revolution. It is an imperative necessity. How else are we going to absorb such a vast army of unemployed youths unless we industrialise and do so in an accelerated manner? To attain accelerated industrialisation, we would need to overcome the key bottlenecks to enhancing productivity in the manufacturing/industrial sector. First, there is the question of low level technology and poor technology choice. While new processes and procedures have revolutionised the manufacturing industry in the industrialised nations, industries in Nigeria, especially textiles, cement, bakery, leather, paper manufacturing and many others are producing with 1970s machinery, giving rise to frequent breakdown and reduction in capacity utilisation rates. This is particularly true of the two NNPC refineries which I visited in Eleme not too long ago. Low technology is responsible for the inability of local industry to produce capital goods such as raw materials, spare parts and machinery, the bulk of which are imported. Equally vital is the imperative of building a viable The Koyi Ugboma ballroom party THE other day, Dr. Koyi Ugboma celebrated his 70 th birthday. He is married with children. He was born in Warri, where no one takes last. Warri taught him his street smarts which have kept him in good stead since birth. His parents wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer or both. He seems to have done both and added business, law and accountancy. In his early life, he studied medicine and nuclear medicine in Hammersmith Hospital, finishing as a physician at the Royal Free Hospital in 1985 and started own practice in 1989. He then read for a postgraduate degree in Corporate Finance Law at the University of West Minister’s Law faculty with a LLM. He even started a school for corporate business studies, law and corporate finance, even though he was also an accountant. You need to see the meticulous way he looks into finance and how much I pay him for his services!! He is after all, from East of the Niger, endowed naturally with exquisite business acumen. He has an MBA, and an honours degree in Tonality of Music, as well as a Linguist, speaking Itsekiri, Igbo, Yoruba, Chinese and Portuguese. Obviously, medicine did not consume all the curiosity in Koyi’s mind. He studied Corporate Finance and Management at the London Business School and at the Open University. He made constant inquiry into all and everything – acupuncture, golf, music and many other activities. In music, he loved instruments such as the piano and the clarinet, and was a mouth organist in a Jazz club. He still studies music every weekend and has now added the study of Chinese, I think Mandarin. His first musical instrument was the flute, which he still plays. He lives a private life in a select area of machine tools and precision engineering sector. This, in turn, requires a viable iron and steel sector, which, in our case, has remained in the doldrums for decades, after frittering away over US$18 billion on Ajaokuta. Related to the foregoing is the problem of low capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector. Capacity utilisation, which has been in path-dependent decline since the 1980s, stands at between 30 and 40 per cent. This has been blamed on frequent power outages, lack of funds to procure inputs, falling demand for manufactures and frequent strikes and lockouts by workers and their employers. Thirdly, lack of funding is an acute handicap. We are aware of efforts by CBN and development finance institutions to make credit available to the real sector. Not only are these not enough; they are having the perverse effect of crowding-out the commercial banks. The latter, on their part, have been reluctant to lend to the real sector; preferring to deploy excess funds into the stock market and treasury bonds that pay more with less risk. Fourthly, there is also the fact of high operating costs related to poor infrastructures, lack of adequate electricity and other structural bottlenecks. Nigeria is the largest generator-importing nation in the world. The EU envoy in Nigeria recently estimated that Nigerians spend over US$46 London, but like all English men he has a summer house on the continent where he is a neighbour of late Chief Sankey, a proud owner of the home previously owned by Saudi Royalty – with grounds, gardens, lounges, etc. with appropriate luxury, a truly tremendously fabulous chateau. In Dr. Ugboma’s waiting room, one is likely to meet Nigerians one has not seen for a long time: ex-politicians, ex-military men, et al, but curiously, I have never heard anyone speak of politics in the waiting room. It is as if in the boiling cauldron of Nigerian Speeches ribbing Dr. Koyi about all sorts of things in his life were made. These speeches tended to show Dr. Koyi’s human side, showing that he was not some Greek god, but a human being with feet of clay politics, all have agreed to a temporary cessation of hostilities, an amnesty while waiting to see the doctor. Otherwise, that place would have been a bedlam. In any case, most of those sitting in the waiting room have more pressing things which brought them there than the viscosity characterising our politics. Nevertheless, I have toyed with writing a TV drama script entitled: Ugboma’s Waiting Room, developing themes of love, illness, hospitalisation, recovery, etc. It would have been a bestseller. I would, at least, be rich and the good doctor still richer. It would have been a series like Marcus Welby, M.D. Nonetheless, Dr. Koyi had a fancy ball party at his golf club in North London. All million on imported petrol/diesel to fuel their private generators. When individual businesses have to use diesel –fuelled generators, it adds a huge cost to their businesses and renders them uncompetitive, quite apart from the inevitable long-term environmental costs. Increased cost, traced largely to poor performing infrastructural facilities, high interest and exchange rates and diseconomies of scale, have resulted into Managing China will be central to our industrial future. We must engage with them to bring their capital and technology to invest in our country and to build our domestic industrial capacity rather than remain their backyard and dumping-ground increased unit price of manufactures, low effective demand for goods, liquidity squeeze and fallen capacity utilisation rates. Fifth, we need massive railway networks. It is simply unthinkable that a country of almost 200 million people should not have a network of high-speed trains linking our major cities and towns. Railways are still the cheapest means of transport anywhere. The dependence on road haulage and trucking adds enormous costs to production and logistics services. It also explains why our highways have the worst carnage records in the world. In Britain, the steam engine was central to the development of the rail system and to the industrial revolution that began in those isles, sweeping through France and the rest of the continent. The massive transcontinental railway in the United States and the great trans- Canadian Railway were central elements in the industrialisation of North America. Railways are necessary not only for industrialisation but also for nation building. Railway workers in early modern Nigeria lived and worked together. People travelled easily and cheaply. When the railways were killed by a combination of governmental incompetence and the trucking cartels, transportation costs soared and industrialisation was gravely impeded. Sixth, there is also the fact of low skills. In spite of the availability of surplus labour, the education system churns out young people with poor technical skills. The humanities have tended to be more popular than the technical and engineering disciplines. Due to strikes by university teachers and poor government funding, standards have fallen. Many of our graduates are barely literate. The solution lies in launching an educational revolution that is anchored on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM disciplines. Seventh, it is evident that our business culture is more focused on trading rather than industrial production. There is quite simply the absence of an industrial manufacturing tradition, unlike Germany, for example, where small and medium-scale family owned Mittelstand firms have been at the heart of its manufacturing prowess. Only few Nigerians are ready to take the kind of entrepreneurial risk in industrial investments that will make Nigeria an industrialtechnological state. This is not only due to the poor business environment but also due to the absence of a robust industrial tradition. Eighth, lack of policy consistency and absence of effective institutional supports by government has continued to be a major challenge. In countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, government is committed to nurturing industries and small businesses, providing knowledge, skills and a robust environment in which they can thrive. Such supports, unfortunately, are virtually non-existent in Nigeria. Those countries also design their guests wore (as in the film Romeo and Juliet) masks turning the place into a Venetian Shakespearean ballroom. Speeches ribbing Dr. Koyi about all sorts of things in his life were made. These speeches tended to show Dr. Koyi’s human side, showing that he was not some Greek god, but a human being with feet of clay. The ribbing was good natured, not vindictive. How can one be vindictive about a 70-year-old medic, especially if you were still his patient? He practices music twice a week, learns Mandarin twice a week and once did a course in acupuncture. He is more than your normal physician; he very quickly metamorphosises into your friend: a deceptively easy-going manner which encourages patients to be totally honest and thus reveal all sorts of information which he needs to find the cure for their ailment. Patients have thousands of stories to tell of how Koyi saved them beyond the call of duty. No matter how serious the case, he is there for you: arranging the ambulance to take the patient to the theatre as he arrives. Many times, the patient would not be prepared for the cost of treatment, but Dr. Koyi make the down payment from his own pocket, which you can repay him later on. Some Nigerians never do, but most do if not timely, but they do, as one patient surprised him by paying his debt a good five years later! There was a scrumptious dinner at the golf club, followed by fireworks and a lively dance with masks. I guess one could be flirtatious and incognito but there are other distinguishing masks: my tummy for example, is a dead giveaway! I have often wondered at the automatic industrial development plans covering decades while we ourselves were foolishly persuaded to jettison planning altogether. Ninth, there is also the challenge posed by the WTO’s liberal international trading regime by which developing countries like ours can no longer invoke the ‘infant industry argument’ to justify some form of limited protectionism. The ECOWAS Common External Tariff, CET. took off a couple of years ago. The CET is considered a major step towards signing the Economic Partnership Agreement,EPA, with the EU. Several contentious issues have forced Nigeria not to sign the agreement, a fact that has angered the Europeans. The latter have started off some kind of lowintensity trade war against us as a consequence. While the EPA has some potential for trade-creation, we have legitimate fears about trade dumping by highly subsidised European farmers, with many critics arguing that it would result in a massive influx of cheap goods from Europe to the detriment of local industries and jobs. We will need to confront these demons if we are to have an industrial/ manufacturing future. Finally, there is the challenge of China. Yesterday Monday I had the privilege of attending the Chinese New Year celebrations in company of the Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian at Chida Hotel, Abuja; a fine gentleman in the best traditions of mandarin China. No other embassy could have pulled such a crowd. I note that the Chinese are now are biggest trading partners and investors. Beijing has strong interests in our oil and natural gas, solid minerals and infrastructures sectors. However, we cannot overlook the problem of trade dumping, as substandard Chinese goods flood our market. Managing China will be central to our industrial future. We must engage with them to bring their capital and technology to invest in our country and to build our domestic industrial capacity rather than remain their backyard and dumping-ground. reaction of nude women who instantly cover their breasts with one hand and the private parts with the other when a man inadvertently steps into a room where the nude women had been surprised by the male presence. Men also react instinctively in the same way if a woman or women mistakenly enter a room full of naked men. The men immediately cover their genitals with both hands. Cambridge University is made up of several colleges providing accommodation for students and Fellows. Usually, there is a Fellow’s common room, dining area, gardens and sometimes swimming pool. During one hot summer, several Fellows were sunbathing in their well secluded clearly marked Fellows’ garden. A group of boisterous girls were running and did not see the sign Fellows’ Garden. They pushed open the gate to see several nude teachers (Fellows) sunbathing. The girls shrieked their apologies. The nude Fellows covered their genitals - all except one who covered his face with the book he was reading. Later on, the other Fellows asked this man what was responsible for his odd behaviour. He replied that he did not think anyone was likely to recognise the Fellows by their genitals – they all are pretty alike – but recognition was more likely if they saw the face: he thought his anonymity was better preserved if the girls did not see his face! So if I wanted anonymity at Koyi’s fancy ball party I had to hide not my face, but my tummy! C M Y K