Friday, February 28, 2014

Mirror Mirror On The Wall...

I was about stepping out of the house a couple of weeks back and like most of us do, decided to check myself out. Truly a mirror check of one's self is not all about vanity.

It's easy to smile now, especially because the 'disaster' did not happen. It was one of those bad-hair days and I’d chosen to use a scarf. A convenient bail out on days like that, but must also be well done to avoid 'stories that touch' I probably felt it wasn't my first time and could tie it without looking into a mirror. But that last look, that last minute of saying, “...mirror, mirror on the wall, am I as fair as I should be today?” was my saving moment. I'd tied it all wrong, with parts that shouldn't be revealed peeping out. Laughing at myself, I touched it up here and there, and dashed out.

I'm sure many of us have had similar experiences too, from wearing our shirts inside out, buttoning them all wrong, mismatching accessories or discovering food stuck on our teeth. This one left me with deeper thoughts on how important mirrors are. If we'll only be true to what we see and make appropriate touch ups, many disastrous images or wrong representations of who we are would be corrected just at the right time. For physical looks, I’m sure many ladies reading this, would be like....come on, I carry a mirror around, and take a quick peep at every reflecting metal I pass. However, this goes beyond the physical.

God has been kind enough to bless us with people around us, who could serve as mirrors. To help us with feedback on how we look, how we do, how we talk, how we treat others, and how we treat ourselves. Yes I know, some give these feedback in discouraging ways, at the wrong time and some even without being asked. The issue really is what we do with the reflections from these people-mirrors. Do we ignore? Are we humble enough to receive them and eventually make attempts to touch up? Or are we surrounded by people who tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to?

Bible readers are familiar with the scripture that talks about a man looking at himself in the mirror, and forgetting what he looks like afterwards. This verse not only helps us see our need to have the Word of God also as mirror for our lives, but encourages us to do something about what we see. It's either you're confident after looking into it to continue in the good graces. Or you are clearer on the gaps in certain life areas that need to be worked on - health, finance or relationships.

Let me  include the need for us to strike a balance with this. Some feedback or counsel will not be true, or in our best interest. Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Les Brown and many others became success stories despite the negative things they had been told. They were not deterred from their personal convictions on who they were or what they could do. For this I’ll say don't gaze too long into bad mirrors.

As I conclude, it is good to open up more to feedback, be more sincere with ourselves, and make efforts to improve. I also leave us with the challenge to be true mirrors for others. Not like those funny mirrors at fairs that give distorted images of a fatter, shorter, thinner version of the object but those giving accurate reflections. Our feedback should propel change, boost morale... as we speak the truth, even in love.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How has the New York Times reported the Central Bank Governor's sack? And what are Nigerians saying about Sanusi's legacy?

Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank Is Fired After Warning of Missing Oil Revenue, by Adam Nossiter, Feb 20, 2014

"President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria removed the governor of the country’s central bank from his post on Thursday, after the bank governor repeatedly charged that billions of dollars in oil revenue owed to the treasury was missing.
Oil yields 95 percent of the country’s total export earnings, and Mr. Sanusi has been saying for months that a substantial portion of the money was missing from public coffers...that the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, or N.N.P.C., had failed to turn over nearly $50 billion in revenue over an 18-month period, from January 2012 to July 2013, “in gross violation of the law.” Though oil prices were strong, official figures inexplicably showed declining revenue and falling reserves.
The sprawling company acts as the country’s oil buyer, seller, explorer, producer, processor and regulator, and is “at the nexus between the many interests in Nigeria that seek a stake in the country’s oil riches,” according to a 2010 Stanford University study.
The study said that while the company “functions well as an instrument of patronage,” it is neither competent nor efficient in its many operations. Mr. Sanusi went further, accusing it this month of “illegal and unconstitutional acts,” including transferring income from government-owned oil properties to “private hands.” "
Read the full article

Meanwhile, the backpage column of Nigeria's ThisDay Newspaper today has 'How Would You Remember Sanusi?'  by Simon Kolawole. 
"Can we ignore the fact that Sanusi restored some sanity to the banking industry? Can we ignore the fact that the so-called billionaires, who were heavily indebted to the banks and living like kings were exposed? Can we ignore the fact that, although it cost us heavily, no bank was allowed to go down and no depositor lost one kobo during the crisis, unlike in the past?
Or can we ignore the fact that the rogue bankers are now facing trial, even if their crafty lawyers and the judiciary are working against justice? Can we ignore the successful intervention of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) which, under Mr. Mustapha Chike-Obi, has done a good job of cleaning up the mess created by these rogues? Can we deny that the stock market is now back to life and this is a major achievement of the Jonathan administration? Can we deny that inflation is now at single digit and the naira has been stable – owing to CBN’s macro-economic management? 
If I were to advise President Jonathan, I would tell him not to waste this great opportunity to install and instil accountability in the oil industry. It is tragic that we sell so much oil but cannot account for every kobo that comes in. We give NNPC 440,000 barrels per day when it can only refine 80,000. We then engage in questionable swap deals that apparently short-change us. The NNPC dips its hands into funds that should go directly into the federation account. These are serious issues. In my opinion, we can fault Sanusi’s method but we should never fault the message: NNPC is a disgrace. This has been going on for decades and has to stop. If this controversy will serve as the turning point for the oil industry, so be it."
Read More Opinions of the Nigerian people Re: The Sack of CBN Governor Sanusi
Read More on the NNPC Thefts, Diversions, or Missing Revenue

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Financial Markets, an excellent, excellent introduction

Trust me, you will want to spend a few hours a week taking this online course that is currently available at the unbeatable price of ... an internet connection.  Financial Markets begins NOW, this week, and runs for eight weeks.  It may get addictive, like my previous Coursera courses
Coursera + Yale university.  Financial Markets.
Prof. Schiller (Nobel Prize in Economics in 2013) who will be teaching the course, says in the introduction "finance is a very important technology.  It has a mathematical basis.  It has a intellectual underpinning that makes it a infrastructure for our, our whole economy.  And I want this course to help people  understand this technology so that they are not buffeted by it, so they can react to the technology and its opportunities constructively in whatever walk of life they choose."

There will be a guest every week, and in week one it's Hank Greenberg (of pre-bailout AIG).  

Get started with Financial Markets

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MINT 101 :: A primer on the economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey

Mexico is a nation of 118 million people, with a GDP of US$1.4 trillion and per capita income of $11,224. It is a major oil exporter. Its geopolitical contiguity to the United States and Canada places the country in a propitious neighbourhood. It is also a member of the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Mexico is an increasingly competitive and diversified economy, with a thriving middle class. It is also the home of the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, whose total assets stand at the magnitude of $53 billion, ahead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Mexico has been a relatively stable democracy since 1920s. However, there are certain challenges. Mexico has become a major producer and transit channel for narcotic drugs. Entire regions have been blighted by this curse. In the drug-producing regions policemen and women are afraid to wear their uniforms. Crime is endemic and the rule of law is increasingly under severe test. In spite of these drawbacks, Mexico’s prospects remain strong. It has a good educational system and its economic institutions are robust. The Bank of Mexico is one of the best central banks in the world and its Governor, Agustin Carstens, is an economist of vision and courage...

A member of the G-20, Indonesia has a population of 237 million people and a GDP of US$867.4 billion, with a per capita income of $3,499...It also has an increasingly diversified export base. Geographically, the country is a fissiparous archipelago of over 17,000 islands, many of them prone to earthquakes and Tsunamis. It is a moderate Muslim country that is increasingly confident as a flourishing democracy. It has continued to grow at a rate of 6 percent over several years, with unemployment estimated at 6.1% and the incidence of poverty at 11.7% of the population. Indonesia shares a neighbourhood with Japan, China, Malaysia and Singapore. Both as a market and as an exporter, its potentials are considerable.
Indonesia is one country that shares considerable similarities with Nigeria...Both are populous, oil-exporting nations endowed with considerable natural resources. Both have experienced traumatic civil wars and decades of corrupt military dictatorships. But that’s where the similarity ends. Whereas military tyrants such as Suharto and his colleagues amassed enormous fortunes, they made a point of investing in their own country and building a thriving capitalist economy. The Nigerian militariat, on the other hand, squirreled everything abroad, leaving us in penury. The reforms undertaken by former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati were outstandingly successful... 

Nigeria’s population of 170 million is well below that of Indonesia. Our GDP stands at US$318.5 billion while per capita income is estimated at $1,831. We are more dependent on hydrocarbon exports than Indonesia and Mexico.  Nigeria faces exceptional challenges of nationhood. Our public institutions remain weak while the political elites remain fractious. Our infrastructures are shambolic. The rule of law remains weak. Welfare remains bleak; with unemployment at 25% and the incidence of poverty ranging between 50 and 65 percent.
Ruchir Sharma of investment bankers Morgan Stanley, in his new book, The Breakout Nations, believes Nigeria has turned the corner. He believes Goodluck Jonathan is exercising strong leadership and that we are on course to take our place among the civilised nations of the twenty-first century. To echo the late Mwalimu Nyerere, “we must run while they walk”.

Turkey is a country of 77 million people, sitting at crossroads of civilisations between Asia and Europe. It has a GDP of US$790 billion and a per capita income of $10,666. From being a world power during the age of the Ottomans, Turkey underwent a rather traumatic period of modernisation and secularisation under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during the 1920s and 1930s. A member of NATO and a candidate for membership of the European Union, modern Turkey is a prosperous democracy and increasingly strong international trading state.
Under the leadership of Recep Tayipp Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the economy has been managed with prudence and sagacity. Irredentist elements within its Kurdistan province have been tamed. Its currency, the lira, has been stabilised and monetary policy has ensured growth under the dynamic Governor of the central, Erdem Basci. Turkish companies are all over Europe, Euro-Asia, Africa and Arabia...

Source: Nigeria and the MINT nations, by Obadiah Mailafia, in BusinessDay

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Concise Weekly Business and Market Reports

 Do you crave short notes on investment outlook for Nigeria? 
The Research Desk of Cowry Asset Management Limited produces a weekly review
Get the business digest every week from Cowry
It does cut through the noise to the most important business news. 

For example, the first report in February noted in its economic review the "further decline in [electrical power] generation output ... nationwide as a result of the gas shortage [and some repairs, such that] national power generation declined to 3.674.9MW from 6,668.6 [of the previous week.]."  The political section mentioned that a proposed National Conference would hold between March and May 2014, and that the Presidential and National Assembly elections have been scheduled for February 14, 2015 - just one year away. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Corruption: A bigger picture

...Corruption in the form of bribery and theft by government officials, the main target of the UN Convention, costs developing countries between $20bn and $40bn each year. That's a lot of money. But it's an extremely small proportion - only about 3 percent - of the total illicit flows that leak out of public coffers.

Tax avoidance, on the other hand, accounts for more than $900bn each year, money that multinational corporations steal from developing countries through practices such as trade mispricing...This is a massive - indeed, fundamental - cause of poverty in the developing world, yet it does not register in the mainstream definition of corruption...

...During the 1980s and 1990s, the policies that these institutions [the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation] foisted on the Global South, following the Washington Consensus, caused per capita income growth rates to collapse by almost 50 percent...Western corporations have benefitted tremendously from this process, gaining access to new markets, cheaper labour and raw materials, and fresh avenues for capital flight.

...Voting power in the IMF and World Bank is apportioned so that developing countries - the vast majority of the world's population - together hold less than 50 percent of the vote, while the US Treasury wields de facto veto power.

Read more: Flipping the corruption myth by Jason Hickel

Here are some directions to follow without delay:
- Require corporate interests, including multinationals, to contribute more to the public good of their host countries/communities and less to the bad (income inequality, environmental degradation, ...)  More immediately, structure tax payments so that they lead to development not to further fattening a fat central government.

- Evaluate the most modern financial market, accounting, and trading practices.  Categorize those that are clearly criminal, merely experimental, and so on and understand their risks and benefits in various scenarios.  Understand how the world of work has changed, and guide a global adjustment to lowered factory/office employment rates for instance.  

- Not tokenism, but a drastic shift in the way people of the world are represented in international bodies. In population, the world is roughly 1/6 Chinese, 1/6 Indian, 1/6 African, 1/6 American, 1/6 European, 1/6 Pacific. 
Notes on the regions/sixths
African: African and Arab/Middle Eastern || American: North, Central, South American  ||  European: with Turkey, Iran, and every -stan  ||  Pacific: South East Asia, with Japan, Bangladesh, Korea, Australia,

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Leading at the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria

During his screening for the AMCON job in 2010, Chike-Obi promised to stick to the three cardinal objectives of the company. He said the three objectives were to acquire the toxic loans, manage them, and dispose the acquired assets at a profit. He pledged that under his management, AMCON would not stray into other challenging areas in the banking system. So far, he has successfully kept to his promise and forestalled major crisis in the banking sector.

The three Nigerian banks acquired are on course to being sold to worthy buyers. AMCON has also restructured and recovered over 10 per cent of NPLs it acquired. In the process, AMCON has admirably balanced maximum recovery with minimum disruption of viable businesses, helping to save a lot of employees’ jobs.
Mustafa Chike-Obi is the CEO of AMCON
Read his interview on growing up with mathematics, his love of sports, and his commitment to the 'common man' HERE.

Previously on UpNaira