By Henry Boyo
NIGERIANS, recently, lamented the way their darling, Super Eagles, crashed out of the on-going World Cup in Russia. Nonetheless, the well known Nigeria penchant, for always daring to stand out, at any cost, may have been embellished, by last week’s announcement that Nigeria, has overtaken India, as Number One, in the World’s Poverty Ratings. In other words, Nigeria is presently populated by, not just a very large number of indigent citizens, but, out of Nigeria’s estimated total 170 million people, alarmingly, close to 50% are deemed to be extremely poor.
Infact, a recent report, which was based on the ‘World Poverty Clock’, by the Brookings Institution, shows that Nigeria now has over 87 million people living in abject poverty. Incidentally, the ‘World Poverty Clock’ was created by, Data Lab, a Vienna based NGO, funded by the German Government, to monitor real time poverty data, across over 100 countries. Indeed, according to the Brookings Institution’s latest 2018 Q1 projections “Nigeria has already overtaken India, which has 73 million people, as the country with the largest number of extremely poor worldwide.
Notably, the Brookings Institute, is a Washington DC based, nonprofit public policy organization, which conducts in-depth research, that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level; the Institute’s recent report, has ranked the World’s countries, according to their Gross Domestic Product, based on their respective Purchasing Power Parity, per Capita; ( this simply means that, total goods and services produced nationally is divided by the total population, while the value of that product, is defined by the relative purchasing power of the National currency).
What is certainly, worrying, however, from the report, is that “extreme poverty is growing in Nigeria by six people every minute, while poverty in India, conversely, continues to fall. Furthermore, the report, noted that “by the end of 2018 (6 months hence), there will probably be about 3.2 million, more people, in Africa as a whole, living in extreme poverty, than there are today (June 2018).
Nonetheless, Nigeria’s Minister for Trade and Investments, Okechukwu Enelamah told State House Correspondents, after the Federal Executive meeting, on Wednesday June 27 2018, that the indices used in arriving at the conclusions in the report ‘might’ have been compiled when the country was in economic recession (i.e. between August 2016 – September 2017).
The Minister, consequently, advised that “Nigerians need not lose sleep because of the report”. Conversely, Enelamah urged the Press Corp, to “remember, that if you are in a recession, what it means is that though your population is growing, people don’t stop procreating, your growth factor (‘falters’), which means that in theory, depending on how they run the numbers, you will be going the other way”.
Probably, the Minister, would have had no problem with his convoluted explanation, if he had the courage to stare the truth in the face, by simply checking out the parameters, including the timing and assumptions which predicated the damning report in the first place.
Incidentally, CIA World Factbook sources, also suggest that the number of Nigerians presently living on less than the International poverty baseline of $1.90/day, has steadily grown from 34% between 1992-99 to 60% (2000-6), 70% (2007–10), 60% (2011–16) to 67% by 2018 (https://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=ni&v=69).
Instructively, however, according to the Brookings Institute, each April and October, the ‘World Poverty Clock Data’ are updated to take into account, new Household Surveys (including an additional 97 surveys made available in April 2018) with new projections on each country’s economic growth, culled from IMF’s World Economic Outlook. Apparently, such data, “form the basic building blocks, for poverty trajectories, computed for 188 countries and territories, both, developed and developing, across the World”; the Brookings study also found that, extreme poverty in today’s world is largely about Africa!!”, and that Africans presently, account for about two thirds of the World’s extreme poor; while the report also warns that if current trend persists, they (Africans) will ultimately account for 90% by 2030!!
Nonetheless, despite the usual unfounded optimism of government functionaries, should, Nigerians accept the Honorable Minister’s rejection of the odious verdict of Nigeria’s pole position amongst the World’s poorest?
In reality, the average Nigerian, readily regrets that life has not only progressively become “tougher” over the years, but survival has certainly become much more challenging lately, with well over 30 million professional job seekers, and millions of Children deprived of formal education, and necessary skills, to earn a living and remain useful, rather than remain an inevitable public burden with a parasitic and a disruptive force on national security and the economy.
Furthermore, Bill Gates, the accomplished International Philanthropist, who has already sunk about $1.6bn into critical Health, related interventions in Nigeria, also noted, with dismay, during his recent visit to Nigeria, that “per capita GDP will decline, if current education and health trends continue, with flat per capita growth”; ultimately according to Gates, “economic growth may, not match a concurrent higher population growth rate” (see “Bill and Melinda Gates: Thank you for your love for Nigeria”www.betternigerianow.com).
Nonetheless, we will have to contend with the issue of population control, particularly, if Nigeria’s GDP continues to be sluggish, relative to population growth. Curiously, however, even a casual appraisal, will clearly testify that, deepening poverty has, inexplicably, existed simultaneously with rising balance of payments surplus and even when relatively bountiful foreign reserves also exist; in other words, we seem to become poorer whenever Nigeria’s dormiciliary account becomes increasingly buoyant!
Sadly, therefore, the richer we become in foreign currency, the poorer our people seem to become; it is therefore, arguable, that even a 50% drop in population growth rate, as often recommended, may only have a marginal amelioratory impact on the poverty level.
Similarly, the more dollars CBN claims to have as reserves, the greater, ironically, seems to be, the pressure on Naira exchange rate. For example, between 1995-8, the Naira rate remained at N80=$1 with only $4bn reserves and barely 4 months imports cover, but Naira has, inexplicably, steadily depreciated over the years, despite significantly, exceptional reserve base and extended import covers over the years, such that our own CBN can willfully sell dollars to all and sundry, including BDCs at face value, even when our government still goes cap in hand to borrow the same dollars externally, at cut throat international rates!
Regrettably, however, weaker naira exchange rates will, counter-productively drive, higher fuel prices and subsidies values, while the resultant inflation will further squeeze consumer demand and propel higher cost of borrowing for industrialists, and ultimately precipitate a collateral reduction in domestic production, and with adverse shrinking impact also on employment opportunities.