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GDP growth and deepening poverty in Nigeria

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THE National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, released the full-year Gross Domestic Product, GDP, figures for 2017 showing that the economy grew at O.82 per cent. Despite the attempt by the NBS to point out the positive aspects of this result, it is the aggregate that should worry us.

As reported, the economy, in the fourth quarter, Q4, of last year grew at 1.92 per cent compared to 1.4 in the third quarter, Q3, of the same year and -1.73 in Q4 of 2016. There is certainly some progress, but 0.82 for 2017 is far from the full-year result in 2014 and even 2015. In reality, any growth less than one per cent is not regarded as growth at all.

The NBS would have done a better job of the reporting if the actual result was compared to the budget. After all, the year’s activities were supposed to achieve certain goals called deliverables. The GDP growth projected for 2017 in the budget was over three per cent. The actual result was 0.82 per cent which was closer to the projections by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF. Obviously, the global institutions were more realistic with their estimates than Nigerian officials who were more politically-minded.

The major reason for the failure was our overly optimistic forecast of daily crude oil exports – which we placed at 2.2 million barrels per day, bpd. By May last year, it was clear to all but the Ministry of Petroleum that 2.2bpd was a pipe dream. It had been for the four previous years. The track record did not deter the government from adopting 2.2bpd as basis for budgeting in 2017. Unwittingly, government officials built failure into that budget.

With the GDP growth of -1.58 per cent in 2016 and a mere 0.82 per cent in 2017, the NBS perhaps deliberately omitted to mention that with the population growth of close to three per cent, Nigerians are now much poorer than they were in 2015. With the 2018 budget now held hostage to Executive/Legislative muscle-flexing, it is a safe bet that 2018 will again result in under three per cent GDP growth. The social consequences of deepening poverty are there for all to see.

The marginal upbeat result for 2017 should be regarded not as a triumph. The government’s emphasis on GDP figures in the past few quarters conveniently leads to the conclusion that the economy has been navigated out of recession. But when we consider how it pales in significance side by side with our population growth, it is obvious that ordinary citizens are still wallowing in the hardship that the recession imposed on them.

This is the challenge our economic managers must face and overcome.


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