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Making the most of our national indebtedness

By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
27 September 2021   |   3:55 am
Sir: Debt no doubt ranks as one of the foremost liabilities hugging man and womankind since Eve and Adam left the Garden of Eden. Debt has slowly graduated into the new sine qua non of modern life.

PHOTO:AFP

Sir: Debt no doubt ranks as one of the foremost liabilities hugging man and womankind since Eve and Adam left the Garden of Eden. Debt has slowly graduated into the new sine qua non of modern life. Yet seeking where to stand to hoist the slacking continent above his head, a blogger was adamant about one thing: that we are afraid of debt.

In his words: ‘It’s this communal inability to come to terms with the reality of debt plaguing our continent, that is our bane as a people…While the rest of the developed world is embracing debt in a bear hug, we are killing ourselves here with self-sufficiency. Everybody wants to amass so much wealth that none ends up for the common man.

I could have doubted him but for the tug of abiding remembrances. And what do you find, among the downtrodden? Just a mere personal debt and we head for the courts.

Unlike in the Third, people in the First World live on credit. You don’t have to afford a car to own one, for instance. Nor build a house to live in one. The stranger thing, though, is that we are transferring this personal phobia for debt to our nation’s economy. Just a mere trillion-dollar debt and the citizens of the acclaimed ‘Giant of Africa’ are put in a panic mode.

The World Bank Group has just released its Audited Financial Statements for the 2021 financial year. O yes! And the good news is that its commitments to the International Development Association for the year rose to $84.3 billion. A whopping 15 per cent higher than that expended last year; just to reassure us that we shouldn’t be bothered that Nigeria is in the Top 10 of countries with a high debt risk exposure in the document.

In fact, with a total debt stock of $11.7 billion, we are comfortably ensconced at Number 5. With India topping with a mere $22 billion; Bangladesh $81.1 billion, Pakistan $16.4 billion and Vietnam $14.1 billion. Any wonder they are not even among their tigers! But assuming they were, what can a tiger do to an elephant?

Anyway, the only snag there is concerns how our nation is coping with its share of the windfall. From the report, it should help the countries strengthen health systems and protect the poor and vulnerable. As well, it’ll help them support jobs and businesses, promote economic growth and lay the foundation for a green, resilient and inclusive recovery.

Your guess from the first item in the list – improving health systems – should be as good as mine. But I’d rather we kept it to ourselves. Not for the fear of a backlash, though. After all, repeat prophecy amounts to nothing if older ones remain unrevealed.

•Isidore Emeka Uzoatu, the author of the novel Vision Impossible wrote in from Onitsha.

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