Fighting Corruption with E- Government

Mat_7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

A lot has been said on anticorruption … and while I concur that the quick-win legal and enforcement issues are extremely key, my focus remains on strengthening societal institutions and the basic processes that control and influence everyday living.

When we talk about automation and processes in Nigeria – most people chuckle … while in other competitive societies, so much is being done with as little human interface as possible. You can obtain your driving license, passport, pay your taxes, start your business, regulatory clearance etc. without meeting any government officer in person or visiting any government building. All that is expected is that you clearly understand and obey the laid-down rules and provide evidence (with no human contact) that conditions are met. Many Nigerians cannot visualise their cheque books/bank cards/international passports safely posted to them. It sounds absurd that tax payers and citizens fund very fundamental institutions that cannot be trusted and indeed no more expected to play their role with all requisite standards of security. In the US during the 2nd World war as far back as in the 1940s … soldiers posted money to their loved ones who received them and the systems have only got better.

Obtaining regulatory approvals/getting things done in Nigeria require more interpersonal interaction and I dare say emotional intelligence as opposed to simply meeting the set criteria for such approval/transactions. Then of course we have to show appreciation for the painstaking effort of the many kind government officers and intermediaries who made it happen.

The internet and information technology have already made it possible to eliminate human interfaces for almost every transaction (and this technology is quite mature … already over 20 years old) … whether you are registering voters or seeking approval to build a refinery or local content approval. This complete elimination of human interfaces go a long way to encourage fairness and eliminating the grey areas which quickly descend further into the black boxes of corruption. For example … oil bloc bidding/awards , sales, oil contracts and indeed most of oil trade can be done on open portals that everyone who cares to can see/participate (if qualified) from a PC anywhere…. the rules are embedded and implemented transparently.

All over the world, economies are making their societies more competitive by introducing improvements to eliminate wastage, human interfaces and stages that do not add any value … banking halls are disappearing … paper passports are going(increasingly digitalised) … interviews can be done anywhere with anybody using virtual rooms helped with Skype/visual recognition and retina technology. Physical money is slowly becoming extinct … enabling tracking/tracing of all money flows….making most corruption almost impossible.

I love and also preach sermons on anticorruption telling ourselves that our great grandfathers would leave their treasures on the road side and would come back to meet them untouched. We often vow that the “old civil service” was an embodiment of ethics and we look backwards pining for those days. All I know now is that you will have a stampede on your hands if foolish enough to leave “diamonds” unguarded on the streets of New York. Valuable things must be protected by systems, documentation and legal enforcement or they will be stolen. There is nothing unusual or criminal about Nigerians. The same Nigerians are designing, managing and living with E-government processes in developed economies – obeying all the rules.

I argue that if ownership of discovered resources (oil, metals, gold etc) pass to individuals or private corporations (like we have e.g. in the United States) instead of to government, there will be an accelerated exploitation and expansion of mineral wealth, and end to most corruption … no more sabotaged pipelines and bunkering will cease.

Mat_7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The things we treasure (not just our faith …but also our pearls) should be cherished and valued … assets, property, time, our resources … all seem cursed to be squandered through leaking government systems …and we wonder why we are stuck in a mire of decline. Competitive societies are protected by secure institutions …basic ground-level institutions like the Postal institutions, Police, City/municipal councils are extremely vital for a bottom-up sanitisation. A lot can be done quickly if basic data on citizens are completely digitised….if ownership, property, assets, residences are registered in linked digital platforms. E- Government sounds advanced – but is actually a MUST… and in truth far less complicated than the confused labyrinth that exists today.

I dare you to attempt to renew your Nigerian passport. You will come to the unavoidable conclusion that corruption is part of the DNA of all clumsy institutions even when you can find angels to manage them for a while.

I meet people everyday who give excuses why we cannot do these things yet. Countries now use the instrument of referenda to accelerate the decisions and changes they need to make where there are constitutional blockers etc. All I say to them is we will one day have to do these things whether we like it or not. The hard work ahead of building our institutions will not disappear – it is only waiting for who will lead us into a new era of progress. Enough of Politics.

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Share

Lending to Nations

Deu_15:6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.

We are in strange times when banks, be they commercial, central or reserve banks are assuming increasing importance and influence. After the global financial crisis years ago, the nations were introduced to the term “quantitative easing” (QE) which meant easing economies, with already low interest rates and no cushion to further reduce rates, by pushing “easy” money into the system so people can borrow even more and hopefully expand their business.

Even in a reduced risk environment as in developed economies, growth was unimpressive and inequality ballooned as stock markets bubbled. It is not so clear if this financial experiment worked in the US as Europe initiates its own stimulus. African nations with much higher risk and rate environments are now also buying these solutions which is a shorter and easier cut when compared to embracing urgently needed aggressive reform solutions aimed at improving their own business environments.

Yet Biblical wisdom warns seriously against borrowing … and by implications any solution that eventually enslaves debtors …enriching banks through interest rates and fees charged…

The Rothschilds, JP Morgan, Baring Brothers and other banking titans ruled the 19th up to the 20th century by profitably financing imperialist exploitation, mining in colonies, growth, frauds – everything … often backing all sides in many wars and conflicts, and cleverly manipulating markets, commodities … always staying ahead of regulation who struggled to keep up with their game. The reign of these families gradually evolved today into more subtle, far more complex and disguised Private and Institutional Banking modes even as regulation is still light years behind in monitoring their intricate cross border networks and market manipulations. Central and Reserve banks have now become the lenders of last resort, in markets that have become more connected and complex, requiring more caution. This also means governments (which will need to be financed somehow) eventually pay for the bad debts.

Everyone in need of finance will face the question of borrowing at some stage … individuals, companies, nations. Those with savings, reserves will reign over others by their investments. The impoverished uncontrolled waster of resources will be lured to borrow more from the more thrifty.

I have encountered a few who live peaceably with no credit cards and absolutely no debt in any form, and know it is very possible – even living in advanced markets where mortgage is easy. It only requires patience, sacrifice, self-control and the discipline to save. It was the saving culture of the Chinese that helped their evolution as engines of growth. On the contrary, nobody spends and likes to live “big” like Nigerians. Do you know weddings can be done at Sunday school etc…(did I hear you say God forbid…) ?

The best time to borrow is when you can afford not to … then, you get the best terms. The very worst time to borrow (ask any banker) is when you are in a financial crisis (like Nigeria). Banks make much more money from riskier lending as rates are always higher causing even more anguish to the troubled borrowers.

But there are alternatives to borrowing … mainly equity i.e. inviting partners to share the risk and accountability in the business and thus share the wealth and gains if things go well. Similarly for nations, governments can privatise i.e. convert government interests to public equity. This has the advantage of devolving more economic power to the citizens and is the most cost-effective way to integrate new technology and improve governance if more experienced technical partners can be attracted (like in our refineries). Only the boldest governments ( like Thatcher’s revolutionary govt.) embrace privatisation … simply because it releases power (politicians cannot do this as this is political suicide) and gives access to private more skilled hands and improves accountability … something governments also dislike. Less progressive governments will deceive the people that they do not want to sell the “family silver” and will rather mortgage the future by borrowing domestically or globally creating bonds or instruments that will eventually be securitised and traded on global markets – where “fund lords” will rate and discount such instruments down to junk. Nigeria risk is already presently rated below junk in the global financial markets, meaning no decent international institution is permitted to invest and if they do so, it would be at the highest cost possible to reward the risk.

Privatisation on the other hand can work, as it was recently done in Japan when its Post Office was privatised … ensuring the shares went as much as possible to small savers, individuals and limited stake of big players.  Terms can be introduced to protect labour.  This is the best way for desired inclusive growth.

I want to suggest there is far more institutional corruption in government corporations than the more open form of corruption (which is equally unacceptable). By institutional corruption I mean to creatively bend rules to favour (party, tribal, selfish) interests at the expense of the economic entity owned by the citizens. The fastest way to curb (not eliminate completely) institutional corruption is to privatise. The market woman’s daily takings are not as easy to steal from as the federal or local government purse. Money in private hands tends to be more judiciously watched and managed.

Smaller governments with power devolved as much as possible and with less direct financial activity are less likely to be corrupt … and far more innovation, research and productivity enhancements and fair competition will thrive. Equity solutions therefore will increase wealth, making it more inclusive as equity is spread to citizens as much as possible. Who is afraid of this, but perpetual government parasites who also lend great instability and confusion into these corporations as captains inevitably change after elections.

But the greater danger of more government borrowing, even when the International Monetary Fund is begging Nigeria not to take that route, is to bring the next generation of Nigerians under servitude of debt … to be mocked by the big banks who will one day rule over them.

Pro_22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

 

 

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Share