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Our worsening poverty outlook

WHEN the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, announced that the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, grew by a mere 0.55 per cent in the Second Quarter (Q2) of this year, after declining by -0.91 per cent in the First Quarter (Q1), Nigeria’s official score-keeper revealed one unpleasant fact which many of us missed.

Nigeria’s poverty level is very high

Given a recession and a cumulative negative growth so far this year, combined with a population growing at about three per cent, our per capita income has dropped further. In other words, the average Nigerian is poorer today than in 2014.

Furthermore, with no growth in the first half of 2017, the GDP growth expected when the budget was prepared has now been revised downwards officially to 1.9 per cent. But the Federal Government is alone in expecting even that poor result. Much earlier in the year, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, had in its forecast announced 0.8 per cent for the year. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, an international accounting and auditing firm, recently revised its own estimates down to 0.7 per cent.

Even if we accept government’s projections, the result, if achieved, will only deepen rather than alleviate poverty in Nigeria. Given the track record of the last two years, government’s proposed GDP growth for 2018 now appears very questionable. In 2016 and 2017, the FG had failed to deliver on its major budget estimates for revenue, expenditure, exchange rate and certainly GDP growth. It is hard to expect a different result in 2018.

As we enter 2019, our people will be more than 20 per cent worse off than they were in 2014. For a country once touted as an aspirant to the top 20 economies by 2020, we would have reversed all the gains made from 2010 to 2013 when the economy grew on the average of 6.5 per cent.

The Federal Government has not been particularly inspiring in its efforts to fix the economy. The Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP, launched in May with a lot of fanfare, has become a mere trope of words and figures on paper and a bit unrealistic for implementation. The way things are going, Nigeria in the next 10 years could become a boiling cauldron of poverty, induced not just by poor economic management but most certainly by rising population.

The time has come for Nigerians outside government- civil society groups, research institutes, universities, the Organised Private Sector and the financial sector, to open up debate on how to save our country from imminent economic collapse. Governments come and go, but Nigeria will remain. What remains must be the country we want; not the one they will leave behind.

We should no longer leave the task of salvaging our economy solely in the hands of government officials. They need serious help.

 


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