Money: The Seen And The Unseen/

Which is more important, is it the money that we can see or, is it the money that we cannot see?

The answer should be obvious yet, more often than not, we are distracted by one and confused by the other.

The money that we cannot see is actually the money that does the most important work as well as the most grievous harm. The money that we see on the other hand is money most often spent on frivolity, money burnt. They say we owe trillions of naira and they say that to pay this debt, they must borrow on our behalf. A simple explanation is that the debt is money we never saw and the repayment is money that we will not see. It is like a myth, the way this money came in and (forever) out of our economy; we are told that it was here but we never saw or felt its presence and, the debt whose acquisition in our names they now propose will most likely have the same magical fate.

The truth is actually something else. We did in fact see a significant part of that money and we still see it because it is flaunted before our eyes by the ones who stole it. It is only described as if it were money that we cannot see because the thieves do not want us to know that our money is what they parade before us as the fruits of their hard labour. So what does money that we cannot see look like?

Imagine if instead of borrowing money (from World Bank affiliated foreign vampires) the nigerian central bank simply printed enough naira to cover our collective needs. And why not? After all, the money that they want to borrow from foreigners (using us as collateral) will also be printed by their banks...anyway, imagine if instead of this insane stupidity, we simply printed the money that we need...

Imagine if after printing this money, the bank then set up mechanisms to lend the money to bodies set up for one singular purpose - which is to ensure that every single naira is utilised in such a way that it adds or create value in some area of the economy - be it in building up infrastructure or, in the training of a workforce equipped to utilise advanced tools and techniques of modern industry.

This is the positive side of how money that we cannot see really works: it accomplishes valuable things that cannot be immediately quantified.

The economic term Opportunity Cost is a way of talking about money that we do not see. An example of opportunity cost is the number of man-hours expended daily in Eko's traffic jams. The engineer whose hourly rate is computed to be N8,000 will on average lose N32,000 a day sitting in pointless traffic jams...traffic jams described as pointless because they are not caused by activities that have economic or social benefits. Where a traffic jam is caused by such an activity (for example where roads are blocked because high-speed fibre optic cables are being laid), then the temporary wastage of man-hours can be offset by the future benefits that will accrue to all that will use the cables once they are set up and, of course to government who will be able to get an increased tax revenue thanks to the enhanced earning capacity of citizens making use of the cables.

Though it is hard to find credible arguments against the dictum that a country's greatest asset are its people, economic policies pursued by government rarely (if ever) acknowledges the fact. The economic term of note at this point is Service Potential. It is described as "the total future service capacity of an asset. It is normally determined by reference to the operating capacity and economic life of an asset." [http://www.lgam.info/service-potential].

Let us imagine the life-cycle of one from the tens of millions of such assets that the country has use of every year to get an inkling of what could be gained and what could be lost. Let us imagine that it costs the public purse (i.e. the central banks printing press) N5,000,000 to train one such asset from its entry into the education system up to where it graduates proficient in the manufacture of something very useful or, in the performance of some vital service. We can start calculating the payback right from when the first note of the N5million is expended because it goes into someone’s pocket and from there, it goes into the wider economy from where a part returns back to government in the form of tax. Our asset provides further yield during its NYSC year when it works for a fraction of its standard wage. Then on it goes to manufacture something useful or provide some vital service, each unit of which is taxed at point of sale or service. During it's working life, the service potential of this one asset will enable it to repay the N5million investment many times over. An investment which if we recall, was actually put at every point of its dispersion into the national economy...it was not set on fire after all...

This is how money is supposed to work. However, because we have been conditioned to focus our obsession solely on money that we can see, we engage only with the trivial aspects of money. Which is why we are descending deeper and deeper into an economy that is based on wastage. With money that you can see, what counts most is not what you do with it but, what you buy that can be seen. And in order that you may keep buying, the most valued things are objects that enhance desire without ever sating it. Yet money makes no sense unless it is used to add value to time. And since time cannot be seen, it must be recognised that the best things that money can accomplish will also be invisible to the eyes. How to bring about the sort of paradigm shift required to make us appoint the proper value to the form and function of money is the most crucial economic and social task before us.