By Emmah Ujah and Oscarline Onwuemenyi
Inconsistency in creation and implementation of economic policies has been responsible for the low rate of development recorded by the Nigerian nation, a report by the World Bank has revealed.
The report also showed that even though growth rate has been on the increase in the last eight years, it has not been matched by productivity since the nation still has a negative employment index, an indication that the growth percentage is not being felt by the populace.
Country Director of the World Bank in Nigeria, Mr. Onno Ruhl said contrary to wide beliefs, Nigeriaâ€™s greatest resource is its youth population, and not its oil resources; the potential of this human capital, however is grossly under-utilized. Ruhl, who was speaking on Monday during the annual ThisDay Town Hall Meeting, in Abuja , added that though the growth rate being recorded by the country is a good thing, the fact that it is not matched by productivity downgrades its success.
He added that other sectors of the Nigerian economy could become money spinners, if properly harnessed.
According to Ruhl, â€œGrowth is good, but without it creating jobs, poverty remains. Before coming to Nigeria , I thought it was solely an oil economy, I did not know about Nollywood or that Nigeria was the worldâ€™s largest producer of cassava. â€œI simply didnâ€™t understand that Nigeria had this much potentials, but potential is not good enough if it is not harnessed.â€
Ruhl commended the Vision 2020 proposal saying it isÂ has the potential to transform the nation if properly implemented adding that the World Bank is impressed with the contents of the document.
â€œIt is very different from any kind of document that I have read. Every page says what Nigeria should do differently.â€ World Bank Chief EconomistÂ in Nigeria and Lead Author of the Employment and Growth report (2009), Dr. Volker Treichel while presenting the report said although there is evidence that the growth rate being recorded is real,Â feelers form the public indicate that productivity or job creation has been on the decline.
The reason for this is that Nigeria â€™s growth is driven by domestic demand and not export power since it continues to focus its export only in the oil sector; this way, growth performance would not yield much fruit, Treichel said.
He advocated that Nigeria should focus on other sectors especially agriculture which can create be a good source for exportation.
Another reason for the low employment index, Treichel added, is that most young Nigerians want to work in the countryâ€™s formal sector like telecommunications, financial institutions, and other sector where they are guaranteed pay checks at the end of every month.
This indicates that a high number of Nigerians shun entrepreneurship which then contributes to the low rate of employment.
â€œThe growth has not met the expectations of the people since it has not been matched with productivity, because it has been driven by domestic demand. Nigeria continues to export only one product; oil, particular concern is the agriculture sector which has not recorded much productivity.â€
â€œTelecommunications, financial sector and some others have improved drastically since 2001, but those sectors that are labour intensive are not recording progress,â€ he added.
Nigeria , he advised should take advantage of geographical locations of states and make targeted interventions in them, instead of trying to â€˜fix every problem at onceâ€™
However, some officials of the Federal Government have faulted the World Bank report for what they called inconsistencies and its inability to factor in recent changes that are being implemented by the Yarâ€™Adua administration.
The officials sought to draw public attention to various policies of this administration which are yielding fruit, even though itâ€™s a gradual process.
The consensus, however which both parties agreed on, at the fourth edition of the THISDAY Town hall meeting which held in Abuja on Monday, was that Nigeriaâ€™s attitude of changing policies with successive governments has been responsible for its low economic growth.
Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudden Usman said the inconsistency in the World Bank report might have been influenced by inaccurate data, adding that the National Bureau of Statistics was working hard to tackle this challenge.
Accurate data of the number of unemployed Nigerians, he added, is not readily available as assessments are made by what â€œpeople see before them.â€
He disclosed that the ministry has identified key growth areas for the Nigeria â€™s economy, and have narrowed it down to seven sectors. On his own part, the Minister of Agriculture & Water Resources, Dr. Abba Ruma picked various holes in the World Bank report saying that the report does not take cognizance of certain reforms which are currently ongoing.
Ruma said the report failed to recognize that Nigeria â€™s arable land had grossly reduced from 79 million hectares to 50 million hectares. He however noted that Nigeria produces food especially grains which are exported to as far as Libya .
According to him, Nigeria takes up a high percentage of the 2% African contribution to global trade adding that previous efforts that have contributed to the relative growth have to be acknowledged.
â€œEven though we are not yet an export power, we still manage to feed our neighbours; most of the grains found even as far as Libya come from Nigeria .â€ Ruma added that agricultural has a lot of potentials for the country and that the administration of President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua was already involved in agricultural development projects in te country citing various examples like the provision of facilities which would enhance mechanised farming for higher output.
These efforts he said were being made to move the economy away from oil based one to enhance productivity in the agricultural sector, and move towards an agro_ based economy.
Agricultural training centers are also in the process of being established across Nigeria to provide practical skills in the sector; these would kick off before the expiration of one year, Ruma disclosed.
â€œThere is hope for the potentiality of employment by agricultural sector for Nigerians. We have moved beyond writing proposals we have reached the level where we are executing. Extension services in agriculture can produce as much as 2 million jobs in one yearâ€
Minister of Labour & Productivity, Prince Kayode Adetokunbo said Nigeria ought to draw lessons from the report and proffer solutions to the inadequacies being observed which are slowing the nation down in terms of economic and social development.
He disclosed that his ministry was working to form synergies with various line ministries to create employment recalling that the labour ministry recently entered a partnership with the Ministry of Information and the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to create a million jobs through ICT.
â€œThere is a department in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism called cultural industries ministries; a lot of jobs can be created through that if we can harness our cultural heritage.
The budget being submitted is targeted to create jobs because the government is changing its attitude towards job creation.â€
He however noted that the government alone cannot be responsible for employment generation while calling for a bridging of the skills acquisition gap which makes young graduates dependent on white collar jobs.
He called for a hauling of the curriculum of Nigeria tertiary institutions to include vocational training so that graduates can acquire practical skills which can help enhance entrepreneurship.
He also called on Nigerian graduates to look into what they can do for themselves instead of being dependent on the government, noting that â€œIt is a shame for graduates to be unemployed because everyone can do something. We have a serious skills gap because of the lack of vocational training.â€
Kayode also advocated for re_introduction of 3 hours shifts in the Nigerian economy, which he said can only work if the industrial sector is revived and is efficient. He also called for the breaking of the monopoly of the Bank of Industry (BOI) as the sole financial engine.
The 6000mw of electricity, Kayode said are meant to power industries so that the nationâ€™s economy can improve and translate to employment generation.
Declaring the meeting open, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory , Senator Adamu Aliero, said the administration of the capital city was involved in job creations for its residents through mechanized farming.
Represented by the Executive Director of the Abuja Investment Company Ltd, Dr. Abdul Muktar, the Minister added that the FCTA provides various facilities for the farmers like fertilizers, tractors, treated grains, amongst others, to ensure higher yield at the harvest time.