Saturday, December 29, 2012

Born Rich, a film by Jamie Johnson

Born rich was described as a documentary on the children of the insanely rich, directed by one of their own, Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson. - Wikipedia: Born Rich
You'll be glued to your screen, just watch.
Jamie Johnson also made a documentary film titled The One Percent, and wrote a (hilarious) column for Vanity Fair.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Who has tried wheat-cassava bread?

I bought this UTC wheat loaf that I thought was "cassava bread."  Not.  I hear Butterfield also makes the same.  I read somewhere too that the smaller bakers have not been as successful in integrating cassava into their bread.  Anyway, I'm still looking forward to try it; I mean, I've eaten potato bread, banana bread, gourmet zucchini bread, ... why not garri bread :D

I'm looking forward to working with the Ministry of Agriculture to publicize the successes and foster more success down-the-line.  Here is part of their progress report from the last sure and steady pdf:

The transformation agenda sets out to create over 3.5 million jobs in the agricultural sector, from rice, cassava, sorghum, cocoa and cotton value chains, with many more jobs to come from other value chains under implementation. 
The agenda aims to provide over 300 Billion Naira (US$ 2 billion) of additional income in the hands of Nigerian farmers. 
Over 60 Billion Naira (US$ 380 million) is to be injected into the economy from the substitution of 20% of bread wheat flour with cassava flour. 
In total, the agricultural transformation agenda will add 20 million metric tons to domestic food supply by 2015, including rice (2 million metric tons), cassava (17 million metric tons) and Sorghum (1 million metric tons).

Cassava Transformation:
The goal of the cassava transformation programme is to turn Nigeria, the largest producer of cassava in the world, into the largest processors of cassava in the world.
Government is aggressively expanding markets for cassava, through the development of high quality cassava flour to substitute for up to 40% of wheat imports, dried cassava chips, native and modified starch, high fructose cassava syrup and ethanol.

Achievements:
• Developed 40% substitution of cassava flour for wheat flour, through collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. This is the first time such a level of substitution will be achieved.
• Mr President directed on November 30, 2011 that the cassava flour bread be commercialized. Within 90 days, the commercialization was successfully achieved in February 2012 when UTC, the largest corporate baker of bread, introduced the cassava flour bread, with 20% cassava flour substitution for wheat flour. The feat was repeated in April 2012 when Butterfield, another large corporate bakery, introduced its 20% high quality cassava flour bread. Cassava Bread is 60% of the cost of Wheat Bread.
• Two large scale cassava processing plants (Thai Farms and DATCO) which were at the brink of collapse when the flour millers in Nigeria stopped buying cassava flour before the advent of this Administration, are back in business and have doubled their capacity to over 22,000 MT.
• 153 SME processors of high quality cassava flour, all of which had collapsed when flour mills stopped buying cassava flour, before this Administration, were fully audited and are being upgraded to ramp up cassava flour production. Total high quality cassava flour production now at 110,000MT, from the SMEs.
• Secured a total of 2.2 million MT of dried cassava chips exports to China. This amount is 200,000MT greater than our 2015 projected plan. Exports of dried cassava chips to China, for the first 1 million MT, started in July 2012. This will earn Nigeria $136 Million annually and represents the first time Nigeria will achieve commercial scale exports of dried cassava chips.
• Held a highly successful agribusiness investment forum in the US in April 2012. Successfully secured $ 6 Billion investment commitment from a large US investor for ethanol production. Four ethanol plants will be established, 2 in the North using sugar cane (a total of 200,000 ha) and in the south using cassava (a total of 150,000 ha). Feasibility is being completed and expected to break ground on first ethanol plant in 2013 with a 2015 completion date.
• Secured financing of over $ 200 million from the China Exim Bank for the procurement and installation of 18 large scale industrial cassava flour processing plants, with capacity of 1.3 Million MT of High Quality Cassava Flour, in place within 18 months. Processing plants to be run and owned by the private sector. The 18 plants will produce 1.3 million MT of high quality cassava flour and meet all of Nigeria’s cassava flour need for up to 40% substitution for wheat flour.
• The National Root Crops Research Institute released 3 Pro-Vitamin A varieties, the first in Africa to develop and release cassava varieties with Vitamin A.

Cassava_based industry in Nigeria
More on all this transformation stuff here: Sure And Steady Nigeria report

Fixing the budget is easy if we BudgIT

At www.yourbudgit.com/kut , IT firm BudgIT lets you click and cut sections of the budget and design your own version of the national budget.  Make sure you share the eye-catching graphs and charts. 

 As suggested in a previous post, we can allow staff of each ministry, department, or agency (MDA) make budget reviews - sent to a confidential address - and when the streamlining is implemented, staff get paid significantly more for saving us all money.  

One could imagine civil servants finally being able to report their thieving bosses, a finance officer revealing how much of the budget request is fictitious, speaking out to cut down excessive entitlements, and a small fraction of the recovered money going back to supplement the wages e.g. with a budget savings bonus. 

I will like to see the budget platform at yourbudgit.com broadened to allow agency-by-agency budget reviews for each budget item, and a robust, easy-to-use, whistle-blower platform e.g. lets you put in a written report with supporting images and documents.  Then of course, it should be flexible, so that other countries, states, companies, and entities can use it for transparent budgeting. 

Progress: In this land of "Nigerian time", it was amazing, great, that the 2013 budget was presented on time, in late 2012.
Next Goal: To have a more rational budget for 2014 that is aligned with our growth and development goals. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Next Level

What do you want to do with your life?
I love 43things.  I've been using it for years.
Especially now as a new year, a new chapter, approaches, it's a good time to state some new dreams of yours.  I use the app at www.43things.com for this purpose.  It's good for voicing and tracking your goals and cheering other people...and you don't have to be public if you don't want to be.

43things, and the counterpart travel site 43places, remind me how small the world is: just a village of 6-7 thousand million people.   Just a village of 40 to 50 Nigerias lol.  Big village.

Happy New Year, everyone. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Case studies in electric power utility management

This series from Der Spiegel International is utterly fascinating. 

German Energy Agency Chief: 'We'll Need Conventional Power Plants until 2050'

SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 15, 2012 German Energy Agency Chief: 'We'll Need Conventional Power Plants until 2050'Stephan Kohler, the head of the German Energy Agency, says the country must act smarter and more realistically in its transition to renewable energy. The "feel-good" subsidies for locally produced wind and solar power have had unintended consequences, he says, and the environmental movement is often part of the problem. more... Forum ]

Quagmire in the Sahara: Desertec's Promise of Solar Power for Europe Fades

SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 13, 2012 Quagmire in the Sahara: Desertec's Promise of Solar Power for Europe FadesAs recently as three years ago, many thought that it was only a matter of time before solar thermal plants in North Africa supplied a significant portion of Europe's energy needs. But Desertec has hit a road block. Industrial backers are jumping ship, political will is tepid and a key pilot project has suddenly stalled. By Joel Stonington more... Forum ]

The High Price of Clean Energy: Tax Breaks and Subsidies for Industry Divide Germans

SPIEGEL ONLINE - October 26, 2012 The High Price of Clean Energy: Tax Breaks and Subsidies for Industry Divide GermansMajor industry is being spared of the costs relating to Germany's expensive shift from nuclear to green energies. The burden is being placed on small and medium-sized business as well as German consumers, who pay the second highest price for electricity in Europe. Resentment is starting to grow. By Jörg Schindler and Gerald Traufetter more...

Rising Energy Prices: Germans Grow Wary of Switch to Renewables

SPIEGEL ONLINE - October 15, 2012 Rising Energy Prices: Germans Grow Wary of Switch to RenewablesGermany's switch to renewable energies is driving up electricity bills across the country, with a green technology surcharge set to rise by nearly 50 percent next year. With frustration over the high price tag, it promises to become a key issue in next year's election campaign. more...

 

Merkel's Blackout: German Energy Plan Plagued by Lack of Progress

SPIEGEL ONLINE - October 10, 2012 Germany plans to abandon nuclear power by 2022, but its government hasn't been doing enough to ensure that the project succeeds. Needed infrastructure and technology is lacking, and coordination is a mess. Meanwhile, weary consumers are paying more for electricity, and the supply is in jeopardy. By SPIEGEL Staff more... Forum ]

Flexible Fossils: A New Role for Coal in German Energy Revolution

SPIEGEL ONLINE - September 07, 2012 Flexible Fossils: A New Role for Coal in German Energy RevolutionOne of the biggest challenges of Germany's ambitious energy revolution is the fact that renewables such as wind and solar are subject to large fluctuations in output. Coal has long been considered their dirty alternative, but a new generation of power plants may herald a glowing future for the fossil fuel. By Stefan Schultz more... Forum ]

Find more here: Spiegel.de/.../Energy

Friday, December 07, 2012

Can reduced government spending enhance our economy?

A few approaches to answering this good question:

Anti-corruption - At this time, we need to reduce the financial reward for political officeholders to discourage "do-or-die" politics and perhaps encourage eggheads like me ;)

Economic growth - Produce more (consume less?) is the current imperative.  To produce more, we need to get infrastructure up, and rent-seeking down.  We must get more small-chunks of resources to productive hands, and disperse the glut of resources at the center (mostly from oil receipts).  This is understood but implementation is slooow.

Electricity - If we would get electric power provision right, we would spend less next year on diesel, generators, transport, communications, health and so on.  Ok, this has little to do with reduced government spending, but it's so important for our economic growth that I had to sneak it in.

Inflated budgets - Study the details of the budgets proposed for various agencies, ministries, etc.  Clearly most are overbudgeting: multiple requests for the same items, wage bills that can't possibly be explained by multiplying the small take-home pay by the number of staff, ... and other inconsistencies.  Why?  And what is the way forward?  Can we encourage these units to review their budgets, come up with new numbers, and maybe reward the rank-and-file staff with extra pay from the savings?  We could create a dropbox for such reviews.

Nine zeros is a billion. I can hear you say "What the hell is the National Judicial Council"

Proven unproductive sectors - a lot of the civil service and political class is unproductive, in the sense that their work has little positive effect on society.  Here are some of the ways this is so:

- Some of the staff doesn't exist i.e. ghost workers

- Some of the staff shouldn't exist e.g. We pay a stupendous pension to the families, multiple widows, and children of former military rulers and other presidents, and governors.  Why? Should they not also work?

- Some of the staff is actually anti-productive e.g. creating redtape and harassing citizens so as to collect bribes.  We ought to put such people in jail.  Instead we keep paying them to further destroy the lives of Nigerians.  For example, multinational wants to set up shop in Nigeria, you refuse unless you (not your people) can get a cut.  God will punish you.  You throw away qualified resumes sent to your boss so that you can sell the open position or give it to your cousin. 

- Where work is done, some of it is unproductive e.g. a workday that consists mostly of the effort to groom oneself, take stressful transportation methods, then settle in to gossip and or power-seeking at the office before heading back home.  It does not add anything to the world, except pollution maybe.  A legislator that can't or won't consider policy that would move the country forward but would travel all over for training (read sightseeing), seat-warming at high-tables, oversight functions like inspection of construction projects.

- A lot of the staff is good-for-nothing on the job, since the process of getting the job doesn't emphasize competence e.g. Last-minute money-sharing will get you to the National Assembly.  Being somebody's cousin will make you their paid assistant.  

- Some of the staff is redundant.  Because they do not have the necessary skills, additional skilled staff has been hired to get the job done.  There must be a stylish and humane and supportive way of either retraining them or relieving them of their duties maybe with a severance package and a business loan or school loan.

Sharing the pain -  Before the protests against subsidy removal this January, the president announced a move to cut salaries in government.  If we have given up our fuel subsidies and are making do with less, where is the matching contribution from the ruling class? How is it that they carry on wasting, carry on being overpaid, carry on receiving multiple "official" vehicles, while we are sacrificing for the future? 

Summary: Some belt-tightening may have occurred in the Nigerian government, but with a 70-30 allocation between recurrent and investment spending, the situation is far from satisfactory.  Government spending needs to be further reduced in favour of more productive spending. 

Read more:
- Budget Proposals at the Budget Office, Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigeria
- Nigeria needs to reduce rent-seeking (search result includes Udah and Obguagwu 2011, Coolidge and Ackerman World bank)
- Jonathan cuts salaries of government officials by 25% (reported January 7 2012).  He said in his speech: For the year 2012, the basic salaries of all political office holders in the Executive arm of government will be reduced by 25%. Government is also currently reviewing the number of committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping responsibilities. The Report on this will be submitted shortly and the recommendations will be promptly implemented. In the meantime, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies must reduce their overhead expenses.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

NES 18: Deregulation, Cost of Governance, and Nigeria's Economic Prospects

The NESG is holding its 18th annual summit in Abuja (December 3-5, 2012)

Day One Intro:
President Goodluck Jonathan will lead the presidential policy dialogue at the opening session of the 18th summit and continue the frank and open interaction...
H.E, Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan will share the Pakistan experience on deregulation in a keynote address during the presidential policy dialogue.

Day One Info:

I'm not there, but here are highlights - Tony Elumelu's tweets, and a burning question - will Nigeria actually make it to the top 20 of world economies by 2020, or will we get stuck at say #27 ?

Coming Up:
  • Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Coordinating Minister of the Economy will lead the Economic Management team in a dialogue on 'Economic Transformation through Deregulation' 
  • Governor Sanusi of Nigeria's Central Bank will lead the session with Financial Regulators on 'Achieving financial inclusion for Nigeria'. 
  • A special plenary on the PIB and the future of Nigeria's oil industry will be led by top public and private sector stakeholders. 
  • A conversation with young Nigerians on the state of the nation will take place during the Emerging leaders Forum** 
  • The newly introduced Civil Societies Forum will seek to create a framework for collaborative advocacy on critical policy issues among civil society organizations. 
  • A Legislators' Forum underscores our determination to engage our elected representatives on their role in the attainment of key national developmental objectives.
** The Emerging Leaders Forum will have Audu Maikori, Nmachi Jidenma, Toyosi Akerele, and others.
I was on the emerging leaders panel at NES#16 - all I can say is hope it's counted. 

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