Most of us, including those too young to have lived a single day through it, associate the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) of the 1980s with the darkest period in Nigeria’s economic history. The popular narrative generally considers SAP to have both caused the problems and failed to fix them, laying the blame squarely at IBB’s feet.
It’s not quite that simple.
SAP reforms were introduced in mid-1986 as a precondition for Nigeria’s borrowing from the World Bank/IMF. We didn’t have much choice.
So what lessons did we learn/should we have learnt from our economic history in the 1980s?
What do you remember when you think of SAP?
I remember hearing the word ‘austerity’ a lot as a child. It was always a strange word for a couple of reasons. While I didn’t know the dictionary definition, I knew that it connoted hardship (and nobody likes the thought of that). Also, my father’s name is Austin, so whenever someone said ‘austerity’, I would think of him. I still do.
The subconscious mind is a fascinating thing really.
“Nigeria is a special snowflake.”
A friend of mine says that all the time. I first met him nearly 25 years ago, and in that time, I’ve not met anyone with a comparable ability to combine dry wit with sarcasm, and hit the nail on the head every single time. It’s a skill I hope to learn, to keep me entertained in my wise old age.
The ‘special snowflake’ analogy is really not that uncommon, nor is it difficult to understand, even if you’re really not familiar with (or interested in) snow. But whenever he says it, I find that I am intrigued.
So this past week, I’ve been thinking about snowflakes. Also this past week, there was unusual snowfall in Saudi Arabia. And since the Saudis will be important determinants of our fiscal fate for the next three and a bit years, I’ve taken that as a sign that I’m on to something.