MY TWEET-CHAT WITH PROF. SACHS, UN SG’s SPECIAL ADVISOR, ON THE FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL   2 comments

“‎I believe the [Nigerian] government didn’t prepare [the fuel subsidy removal policy] well… I support OccupyNigeria’s fight for clean and honest government.” –Prof. Jeff D. Sachs, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General

On January 6, 2012, Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper reported that the United Nations (UN) had commended President Jonathan for withdrawing the subsidy on petroleum products, describing it as “a bold and correct policy”.

Vanguard attributed that commendation to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser and renowned Economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

So, when on January 8, 2012, Professor Jeffrey Sachs @JeffDSachs tweeted this: “Ghana on the move. Fast-growing & looking to solve poverty in dry north. Spent great day with villagers discussing health, [agric], and water!” I replied him, situating his reported support for the fuel subsidy removal in context as follows: “@JeffDSachs Ghana on the move…yet you come to Nigeria to endorse the President’s policy plan to worsen our poverty even more. How unfair!”

Feeling compelled, Prof. Sachs responded saying, “@Raymond_Eyo In Nigeria I worked with Gov to scale up fight against malaria & for maternal survival. Powerful ways to fight poverty!”

I reacted further: “@JeffDSachs Agreed, Sir, but removing the only welfare package that Nigerians get from gov’t in the midst of worsening poverty is unfair!”

On January 14, 2012, Prof. Sachs tweeted this in relation to a domestic issue in the United States: “More lies from Wall Street Journal. WSJ says Gov employment is soaring. Actually lower in 2011 than at the end of Reagan Admin in 1989.”

Again, I responded, making sure to contextualise his reported support for the fuel subsidy removal. I said: “@JeffDSachs Then you support the removal of our fuel subsidy in Nigeria so that our own unemployment will skyrocket even more. How sad!” Prof. Sachs didn’t reply.

Later in the day, Prof. Sachs again tweeted: “Please see my Huffington Post blog to find more details on how The Wall Street Journal misleads about gov employment.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/…”

I again replied, making my case against him thus: “@JeffDSachs And you, the IMF and the EU mislead the weak President Jonathan into removing our fuel subsidy and worsening our unemployment.”

This time around, Prof. Sachs responded saying, “@Raymond_Eyo Give it a break. I had NOTHING to do with this decision whatsoever, and believe that the gov didn’t prepare it well.”

It was obviously going to be a mini-debate so I took my turn and said: “@JeffDSachs But Sir, it was reported authoritatively that you, on the UN Scribe’s behalf, endorsed Jonathan’s subsidy removal policy.”

Prof. Sachs retorted: “@Raymond_Eyo First you wrote that I helped to create the policy. No! Second, you read a short press article, not an authoritative report.” “@Raymond_Eyo In both my original very brief statement to the press and in what I just wrote to you I’m not speaking for the UN.”

I certainly had to clarify him. I said: “@JeffDSachs By the way, Sir, I didn’t say an ‘authoritative report’. I said ‘it was reported authoritatively’, meaning by a trusted agency.” I added that, “@JeffDSachs Sir, that’s the impression you gave when it was reported in the press article that you commended Jonathan and you didn’t question it.”

Prof. Sachs replied saying, “@Raymond_Eyo Thanks for writing back to clarify. I didn’t give any such impression, but the press took it. You know how that goes!”

Prof. Sachs then stated this: “@Raymond_Eyo I support OccupyNigeria’s fight for clean and honest gov. Oil sub is wasteful though. Better ways to help poor.” He added: “@Raymond_Eyo I spoke one short sentence about a complex topic (alas). Since then, I’ve tried to elaborate in several ways.”

I responded: “@JeffDSachs Ok, Sir. Noted. I am very grateful for your time and your openness. I hope I can learn more from you in other circumstances.”

To that, he replied saying, “@Raymond_Eyo And I appreciate your approach to me. I am a fan of Nigeria’s civil society, and no friend of neoliberalism or corruption!”

I was impressed by Prof. Sachs’ pledge in favour of Nigeria’s civil society and against corruption so I replied, respectively, saying, “@JeffDSachs Thanks for being on the Nigerian people’s side, Sir. With honest men like you, mankind has a fair chance of beating the odds.” “@JeffDSachs That’s very good to know, Sir. Therefore, in you, we’ve got a trusted friend and partner. Together, we’ll rid Nigeria of graft!”

Broadening the scope of our discussion on Nigeria, Prof. Sachs disclosed this: “@Raymond_Eyo Some Nigerians were upset with me when I spoke of cautious optimism. But I am optimistic. Keep up ur efforts for good gov.”

To that, I said: “@JeffDSachs Absolutely, we will, Sir. Thanks. That must have been because cautious optimism hasn’t helped b4. Now, we’re actively involved.”

On a concluding note, I referred a question to Prof. Sachs that had been asked President Jonathan via twitter by prominent CNN anchor, Jim Clancy @clancycnn. Here’s the question: “If corrupt cartels and fuel importers are the problem, why not crack down on them?” I asked Prof. Sachs what he thought of it. His brief but poignant reply was thus: “@Raymond_Eyo I’ll learn more. Nigeria’s bigger issues, though, are: (1) to tax the rich; (2) invest honestly in health, edu, and infrastructure.”

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Posted January 14, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Economy

2 responses to “MY TWEET-CHAT WITH PROF. SACHS, UN SG’s SPECIAL ADVISOR, ON THE FUEL SUBSIDY REMOVAL

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  1. I support subsidy removal and also the awekening !

    • Well, that sounds contradictory to me because the awakening was prompted by popular disillusionment against the removal of the fuel subsidy. It is so disappointing when someone like you, Bietor, who ordinarily should be reasonable enough to think aright fails to do so. No argument in favour of the removal of the fuel subsidy makes meaningful sense. If more money for infrastructural development is the issue, ask the Federal Gov’t to reverse the wasteful recurrent (72%) for capital (28%) spending! Period! If fighting corruption is the idea, all you need to do is to boldly go after the oil cabal and prosecute them. If proper deregulation is the point, why not get passed the all-important Petroleum Industry Bill first? The fact remains that Nigeria, being one of the world’s biggest exporters of crude doesn’t deserve to have her citizens/denizens paying the same price for fuel as in the world market!

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