COVID 19:Okonjo-Iweala Heaves A Sigh Of A Relief, Bags IMF External Advisory Group Appointment

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By Elizabeth Chukwuma

When President Muhammadu Buhari, first assumed office as an elected President of the  Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, many  known  Chieftains of the All Progressive Congress, APC, including Adams Oshiomhole , a former  governor of Edo state and now Chairman of the Party,  took  advantage of the change in the leadership of the country from the ruling People’s Democratic Party to the Oposition APC,  to rubbish the track records  of Okonjo –Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the  national Economy under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

Some of them including serving ministers were said to have even called on  the Ibrahim Magu, a Commissioner of Police, led Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe him, alleging financial misappropriation. Unknown to them, they were  dealing with a one –time top official of the World Bank  who believes in keeping records. She made herself  available to respond to  accusations of alleged Corruption against but that  was how far the government could go.

The Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus  which  had spread to over 200 countries across the world and infected no fewer than 1,696,139 people resulting in 102,669 deaths as so far, may have forced Kristalina Gergieva, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, IMF, to go in search of notable and experienced hands across the world  who had  shaped their countries’  economies during crisis  and returned it  back on the path of growth to serve in the Bank External Advisory Group in this trying and difficult times.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: Member, IMF External Advisory Group

Georgieva, the IMF, Managing Director, had said  that  “the new group  will provide  perspectives from around the world  on key developments and policy issues, including policy responses to the novel COVID 19, facing the entire world”.

 The IMF boss who could not hide her feelings stressed  that to handle the health crisis, which many believe had overwhelmed the World Health Organisation, WHO,  a United Nations, UN, Health agency, requires ” an  exceptional and diverse group of eminent individuals with  high -level  policy, market and private sector experience” across the world”.

It was not surprising why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former world Bank Managing Director and  minister  of Finance and Coordinator of the  Economy under two former Presidents of Nigeria, Obasanjo and Jonathan to make  the list of the twelve member IMF External Advisory Group.Many believe that the appointment of the two-time  former Nigerian minister of Finance and Coordinator of the  Economy was a good advertisement for the country.

Other members of the Group include Tharman  Shanmugaratnam, a senior minister  and Chairman, Singapore Monetary Authority, a  country that had had moved from being a third world country to a  developed economy, Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, Lord Mark Mallock Brown, a former UN, deputy Secretary General,  United States based  Professors  Kristin Forbes,  Massacgusetts Institute of Technology , Carmen Reinhart, Hrvard University  and Raghuram Rajan, University of Chicago.

The list also includes  Feike Sigbeima, a  former  Manging Director, DSM and now the  Company Honorary Chair, Ms. Ana Botin, Group Executive Chairman, Santander, Mohammed.A. el Eian, Chief Economic Adviser, Allianz, Scott Minerd, Cief Investment Officer, Suggenheim Investments and Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, Chairman  of Action Aid International.

The IMF, Managing Director is optimistic that the Group members  would bring to bear their experience on the international assignment. She noted that before the spread of the COVID 19 to scores of countries in the world,  the Bank had confronted the  rapidly  evolving world and complex policy issues.

The External Advisory  Group , according to a Statement by the Bank Spokesperson  is expected to meet  a few times  in a year with Georgieva, the IMF, Management Team including Georgieva, the Managing Director  and the Deputy Managing Director. “I am proud of the Group, members”, the IMF boss remarked.

Note that in tackling the pandemic, the  Bank  had established a $50 billion Trust Fund to  help low and middle income countries adversely  affected by the disease. It was said to have also promised   to use its $1 trillion  lending capacity  to  further help countries that are struggling  with the economic impact  of the health  crisis including Nigeria.

As a prelude to helpping countries  with urgent Balance of Payments needs, the IMF, Managing Director declared  that  it   will “ deploy its  flexible and raid-disbursing  emergency response toolkit for the purpose”.

At present, the bank, according to an  insider report has 40 ongoing arrangements –both disbursing  and precautionary, with combined Commitments  of about $200 million. These arrangements,  are  expected  to provide  another vehicle  for rapid disbursement of funds to countries in financing the  crisis.

The IMF,  officials may have discussed  the $1 trillion lending capacity  of the Bank  that could be used  to aid  the merging and developing economies  feeling the COVID19 catastrophe. “We  had  a dynamic discussion with the Group   to gain their insights  and to receive informal  reactions  to our ideas and approaches, she had said.

There are fears in both official  and unofficial  circles that with the treatment meted to her by some members of the Buhari Administration, both past and present, she may not want to use her position to help Nigeria to benefit from the IMF , $1 trillion fund  for lending to  emerging and developing economies by the Bank.

 This is bad news to the Nigerian  government  which  may have to  find a way out  of reaching out to the former Finance minister and Coordinator of the economy to  mend fence with her. This is where former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan may have to intervene to force the former minister to have a change of heart towards  the Buhari Administration in this trying and difficult times that the IMF is calling for global unity to tackle the covid 19.   

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