It is no longer news that the February 2015 elections in Nigeria will be keenly contested between the incumbent Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and one-time military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari. However, as the campaign trains of both camps continue to crisscross the nation to canvass votes for their preferred candidates, I cannot help but wonder if either of the contestants has sat down to think about the challenges that he will face in ensuring the welfare of the people.
The Danger of Running the Budget at a Deficit
Whether you agree with me or not, the Nigerian nation is in for a potentially tough economic time after the elections as oil prices continues to fall and the value of the Naira is being eroded. Hence, the government will most likely be running the 2015 budget at a deficit.
However, if history is anything to go by, the typical Nigerian government will most likely start a cycle of owning workers their salaries and the non-payment of workers' salaries will generate further economic hardship for the populace. In fact, many state governments already own their workers more than three month's salaries.
In essence, after all the hoarding of state funds for the purpose of winning the elections stops and the euphoria of winning the election wanes, whoever sits in Aso-Rock must be prepared to provide solutions (and fast) before Nigerians lose faith in the government.
Proffered Solutions that will Make the Government Popular
Cut the salaries of political office holders
Instead of embarking on additional austerity measures as a solution to falling government revenue, I suggest that the new government consider cutting the salaries of political office holders (in fact, halving their current salaries won't be too harsh).
This move would endear the government of the day to the masses by showing that the government is truly there to serve the people. In addition, a significant cut in the salaries of political office holders will reduce government expenses and allow better use of scare resources.
Reduce Bureaucracy in Government
Many of the people working in government ministries and parastatals might want to lynch me for this, but the fact remains that bureaucracy is very expensive to maintain. Before we even talk of ghost workers on the government payroll, many people employed by the government are practically doing nothing in their offices.
In essence, merging some departments/ministries, reducing the headcount especially of aides and assistants and simplifying the workings of the ministries will also reduce government spending in the long run.
Promote transparency and accountability
The aforementioned suggestion of reducing government bureaucracy might generate mixed reactions from the populace but a promotion of transparency and accountability in how the government conducts its affairs will win over many objective folks to the government's side.
I posit that if the government of the day holds itself to high levels of accountability and transparency inasmuch as our economy is concerned, 2015 might be a tough economic year, but it will probably turn out as the year that the government and citizenry unites in mutual understanding.
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