THE MINIMUM WAGE IS NOT THE ISSUE

– By Lanre Roland

January 9, 2024, I wrote a piece (Our Sad Reality: If The Corruption Does Not Stop). Shortly after, Organized Labour came up with a minimum wage that: when broken down, reiterates what was in my article. 5 months down the line, we are farther from Uhuru than closer to it.

Nigeria is not going to get better by a new old anthem and some other subterfuge/distraction, it is only going to get better by deliberate and purposeful wholesome restructuring, which can only be hinged on fighting corruption.

Now to the minimum wage, the latest smoke and mirrors saga. Most talks have been more of political defence than sense. One wonders where these vocalists were when the minimum wage was changed to 18,000. Where were they when it became 30,000? Why did we not hear the frenzied cry of inflation and all that then?

When you look at some reactions to this minimum wage issue alongside the fuel subsidy issue, it would seem it is more about the persons than the policies. Let’s look at some things in plain speak.

The United States is touted as having different minimum wages, with the federal said to have the least, and the highest-paying state having more than double of the federal minimum wage. This means each state can pay what they can afford and is believed to be fair-value by all stakeholders, relative to economic indices in the state.

In Nigeria, when the minimum wage was 18,000, not all states were paying it, neither were they; when it went to 30,000. Just as people leave places to go and “make it” at better places, just as Nigerians leave Nigeria to go to climes where elements of governance seem to deliver more dividends, the minimum wage would create a competitive economic drive.

If State A can pay the federal minimum wage or even more and State B cannot, there would be migration of brains and talents from State B to State A. This would conversely stimulate the government of State B to work harder, in order to make their state a haven of preference. This would make anyone seeking a position to be fully equipped and readily poised to deliver. Allocations to the states are different, it would not be far-fetched if minimum wages are relative. The states earning more from the federal allocations or generating more revenue should not be expected to pay the same minimum wage as states at the bottom.

From January 2023, state services and items increased astronomically, we have vehicle insurance fees, building approval fees, and forcefully-introduced fees and levies like annual vehicle ownership payment, etc. These fees cut across Nigerians, private and public.

It is now surprising that there is a school asking what about the private sector (on the issue of minimum wage), when they were there when all these fees were being paid and they did not ask the governments to exempt the private sector. They were there when civil servants were getting wage allowances and other benefits, but we did not hear the argument of inflation or their query to the government for paying those in government employment only.

The antagonists of the minimum wage have not spoken to the different cash palliatives that the governments are rolling out as spiking inflation or even ineffective. Why are all the cash being doled out not being aggregated into infrastructure? Why are the people supposedly at the receiving end “not being lifted out of poverty?”

The political class hardly invests in the country. Many of them in government are rent-seekers living ostentatious lifestyles on the commonwealth. Some say the Confab gave us a reversal to the old anthem, but there is a recommendation from that same confab that we should have some people in government only on part-time basis.

The point here is, the minimum wage might not lead to inflation, it can lead to investment. With the right policies and environment, more money in the hands of people that have been dealt raw deals would translate into prudence-guided investment. Already, people are growing things in their gardens and evolving to cope The only challenge is we have a leadership that tells the people to adjust, manage, etc, while the leadership does the opposite.

In conclusion, when you look at the demands that are being made on income and the geometric increase in the last one year, it is suicidal asking someone with a static income to keep coughing out more, in catering to present economic demands.  When the minimum wage was 18,000 and even at 30,000, some earners were earning less than each, yet their lot was not so bad. Why? The economy was better

A government is put in place to govern, it is a trust business, and the people take that trust from results.

So far, it’s been a lot of talk, blame-game and negative results that are waning the trust of the people.

Presently, there is no low-hanging fruit, and prices are cheetah while incomes are walls. One is moving at top speed and the other one is stationary and liable to collapse.

The minimum wage can be increased, comparatively to every other cost of living, but it would be an effort in vain, if the governments do not work on visible, positive economic policies and restructuring indicative of proactive governance with an objective of growth.

And remember, none of that will ever be possible with the alarming rate of corruption deeply-seeped into governance in this country.

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Esther Ogechi
Esther Ogechi
13 days ago

I couldn’t agree more!
I love how enlightening every article posted on this platform is.
Thank you, Environmental Lagos! 🙏💯
Keep up the good work! 👍

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