Reforming the Unreformable, By Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (A Review)

From Zambian Economist Mon Feb 25 2013, 05:41:00

By Chola Mukanga

In 2003 Nigerian President Olusengun Obasanjo invited Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to return to Nigeria from the World Bank and become the country's Finance Minister. Her primary task was to sort out Nigeria's economic mess which had been inherited from previous successive military regimes. The country was practically on its knees after years of rampant inequality, pervasive corruption and power struggles at the top. What was previously a diversified economy had increasingly become a mono economy perpetually dependent on a poorly run oil sector. Economic growth was excessively volatile, with spending largely tracking changes in oil prices. The Obasanjo administration was saddled with inefficient state-owned enterprises crippled by rising debts and pension liabilities. Political patronage was rife, with over 5,000 boards' seats in state enterprises maintained purely for political expedience. Nigeria was virtually bankrupt.

Okonjo-Iweala's Reforming the Unreformable is a narrative of how she assembled an economic team that sought to fix everything within a period of three years. As she puts it, "it is the story of development economics in action, drawn from the front lines of economic reform in Africa". Okonjo-Iweala penned the book principally as an attempt to offer lessons to policy makers grappling with how to bring about reforms in low income countries. She also believes that Nigeria's reforming lessons during the Obasanjo years offer wider global lessons. The reforms demonstrate that great challenges present great opportunities to reposition the economy - which can be a springboard for steadier, more diversified long term growth. In that vein the book speaks directly to today's global financial and political challenges in both the developed and developing world. Other countries can learn from how Nigeria ...

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