President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, November 29, presented to the joint session of the National Assembly, the sum of N27.5 Trillion as the 2024 budget proposal for the country, Nigeria.
The budget, no doubt, was well articulated in many aspects of the nation’s socio-economic realities.
But what caught our attention was the issue of borrowing more money for the development of several sectors of the nation’s socio-economy. Of course, the budget contains a lot of positive parts to raise the hope of the citizens for a better tomorrow, but the idea of going to borrow N7.83 trillion to finance the deficit in the budget seems to have crashed such hope, for those who understand the dangerous implications of debt burden.
The President explained that N298.49 Billion will be borrowed from the privatisation proceeds while N1.05 trillion will be borrowed from drawdown on multilateral and bilateral loans, secured for specific development projects.
Indeed, loans, by whatever name they are called and with whatever design, have hidden and open dangers to the very development being pursued.
It is instructive to know that some countries in Africa cannot even boast of N7.83 trillion, which we want to borrow, for their annual budget.
Some religious scriptures are clear about the uncomplimentary nature of debts. For instance, the Bible, in Proverb 22:7 says: “the rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” and Deuteronomy 15:6 prays: “For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”
The Qur’an, verse 7:31 says: “squander not wastefully, surely the squanderers are the devil’s brethren.” The verse is supported by verses 17:26-27. In essence, Islam discourages heavy debt as much as possible. It is considered to have a serious and direct effect on a Muslim’s belief or conviction for, it can lead to harmful consequences.
Apart from the spiritual, moral and psychological dangers and enslavement inherent in debts, they ironically stand in the way of real development in many sectors of the nation’s economy, not to talk of heralding some obvious elements of financial subjugation and neocolonialism.
As a matter of fact, many philosophers have discussed the dangers of borrowing and indebtedness. Some of them include Friedrich Nietzsche who believed that borrowing is dangerous because it can lead to one losing his independence and becoming enslaved to the creditors.
He argued that the creditors can use their power to coerce the debtors into doing their bidding, thus undermining their autonomy.
Immanuel Kant too believed that borrowing can undermine our moral character, as it can lead to us failing to keep our commitments and obligations. He argued that we have a duty to be honest and truthful, and that borrowing can make us dishonest by leading us to make promises we cannot keep.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau equally believed that borrowing can lead to economic inequality and social injustice. He argued that when people borrow, they often have to pay interest on their loans, which enriches the lender and makes the borrower poorer.
This can lead to a widening gap between the rich and poor, which can have damaging social consequences.
And Karl Marx believed that borrowing can be a symptom of a deeper problem with the economic system. He argued that when people borrow, they are often doing so because they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs. This is a sign of economic inequality and exploitation, which is caused by the capitalist system.
Overall, these philosophers believed that borrowing can be dangerous because it can lead to loss of independence, undermine the moral character, contribute to economic inequality, and be a symptom of deeper problems with the economic system.
It is our view, in Greenbarge Reporters online newspaper and hardcopy magazine that President Tinubu can still achieve his developmental dream for the country by prioritizing sectors that require urgent attention and tying whatever financial resources available locally to them. In other words, instead of taking all the sectors: infrastructure, health, education, financial reformation, employment, etc in one fell swoop, his government can identify most salient ones for which locally generated revenue can accomplish and go for them.
As a matter of fact, sustainable development that ensures a future of fresh air for the citizens can be achieved not by rushing to get all things done today with heavy borrowing that forecloses the future comfort of the citizens, but by gradual, calculative steps, with less dependent on borrowing.
We are not unaware that some so-called developed nations are also neckdeep in debts, external and internal, but our government needs to take some peculiar situation of Nigeria into consideration and work within that parameter.
As mainly a consuming economy, our government needs to start rethinking on the best way to source for funds locally for the development of essential sectors and to ensure wealth creation. Rehabilitation and fully operation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company, Itakpe Iron Ore, moribund oil refineries and similar others for example, would stand us up not only for the generation of needed funds to develop other sectors, but ensures our relative financial independence.
We therefore, appeal to President Tinubu, the National Assembly and even the future governments to save the next generations of the country from debt strangulation that is capable of returning them and the country to 1900.