Rip Van Winkle, you probably know. He was the fictional American bloke that snoozed for 20 years; only to wake up and find everything around him changed.
But Morgan Van Winkle? Though American too, it’s a new one — particularly in the sphere of foreign banks, financial institutions and rating agencies, as they relate with the Nigerian economy. Hitherto, under the reign of Her Imperial Majesty, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, all-mighty minister of Finance and the even mightier coordinating minister for the Economy, these foreign money clubs wielded the virtual power of life and death, over the Nigerian economy, and its neo-liberal local crusaders.
J.P. Morgan, that American investment bank, listed among those global monetary titans.
So, how did J.P. Morgan morph into Morgan Van Winkle? Good question!
Whereas the original Rip slept for 20 good years before jerking awake, J.P. Morgan would appear to have snored for only 20 days — or perhaps it still snoozes? — and would appear reluctant to wake up to the grim reality that for the last 100 days at least, the fetishisation of its ratings and allied bean-counting is getting out of vogue. That makes it Morgan Van Winkle, the proud 21st corporate offspring of Rip Van Winkle.
J.P. Morgan had it proclaimed that it would, by October ending, shove Nigeria off its Government Bond Index (GBI), a sort of guide for foreign investors flush with funds but with an eye too on the big bucks, willing to try their luck in the so-called emerging economies, after the matured marts of Europe and America.
J.P. Morgan’s grouse? Its near-insistence that Nigeria further devaluate the Naira: to make more cash from exports and discourage imports. But pray, how robust is Nigeria’s exports; and is it positioned to curb imports? The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has responded with a near-emphatic no; and that has elicited J.P. Morgan’s notice to de-list.
O, those good old days! Such a threat alone would have sent HIM Okonjo-Iweala into some depression, talking down on CBN, and galvanising the Economic Management Team (EMT — does that, by any means, resonate as “empty”?) to do the needful and fast! The economic metropole has spoken and the House Negroes in the periphery must comply — or else!
Well, not any more — at least for now. The days when foreign rating agencies strut their stuff and local viceroys swoon on their plastic stats, and the government itself makes a fetish of cosmetic book balances and convinces itself, yeah, it’s doing real good, appears gone.
Now, growth should be in how deepened are social and physical infrastructure, the one in the long run and the other in the short; adequate electricity power to unleash the people’s productive energy; how these infrastructures trigger real economic activity; how this activity triggers more jobs and unemployment drastically declines; how this growth results in development (better standard of living, affordable better education and affordable health services); and how that development transforms into eventual prosperity, taking most off the poverty line, and driving the well-off to further create real wealth.
It’s Buharinomics, stupid!
At the end of the day, which investor can ignore the huge Nigerian market, if our government gets its acts right? Sure, we will still need J.P. Morgan and allied clubs; but as productive and sensitive partners not arrogant overlords, whose baleful sneezes make us catch terrible colds.
But that is when J.P Morgan would have shed off its Van Winkle state.