The World Bank has warned that the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty may increase by more than 30 million by 2030 if the government fails to revive the economy and create jobs.
In its 2019 Nigeria Economic Update Report entitled: “Jumpstarting Inclusive Growth, unlocking the productive potential of Nigeria’s people and Resource Endowment,” the bank predicted that the country might also become home to 25 per cent of the world’s destitute people.
Last year, Nigeria overtook India as the poverty capital of the world by having the highest number of people in extreme poverty. Also, the World Poverty Clock claimed that Nigeria had over 87 million people living in poverty.
The Federal Government should not ignore the warning from the global bank. It should quicken the pace of reviving the economy and creating more jobs. The economy can slide into another recession if crude oil price falls to $50 per barrel.
However, OPEC oil basket traded at $61 per barrel last week in the international oil market. However, with a population growth (estimated at 2.5 per cent annually) outpacing economic growth, weak job creation, high unemployment rate, low per capita income put at less than $1.90 per day, the government must put measures in place to diversify the economy.
Although the nation’s economy is gradually recovering from the 2016 recession, it is still vulnerable to external and domestic risks. Nonetheless, the government can use reforms to mitigate these risks amid growing public demand for greater economic opportunities.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should increase domestic revenue, remove trade restrictions and improve the predictability of economic policy. The government should see the World Bank’s warning as a walk-up call to urgently put in place robust economic policies that will stimulate growth and address the challenges that exacerbate poverty.
The World Bank’s prediction is not surprising. For instance, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has, for some time now, been hovering below the population growth. Though the government has initiated a number of reforms to gin up the economy and reduce poverty, there is need for more.
Government should increase fiscal revenues, improve the quality of spending, invest in human capital and infrastructure as well as create jobs.
We also recall that President Buhari had, some time ago, lamented the plight of the young street urchins in the North, known as Almajiris and challenged the elite to ameliorate the situation. It is not enough to bemoan the situation; a more pragmatic programme of action should be put in place.
The increase in population without access to education will put more people on the streets, thereby fueling the poverty level. Oxfam International recently announced that 94.4 million people in Nigeria live below the poverty line. The figure, which is about half of Nigeria’s population, is alarming. Almost six people in Nigeria are reported to fall into the poverty hole every minute.
It is important that the government heeds the advice of the World Bank and remove all barriers that breed poverty by investing in people. As at June 2018, Nigeria had 86.9 million people living in extreme poverty and unemployment rate of over 24 per cent.
Going forward, government should invest heavily in agriculture and give incentives to those in agribusiness with access to credit at low interest rates. Nigeria has about 98.3 hectares of arable land. While 72.2 million hectares of the land are cultivable, only 34.2 hectares are cultivated.
Therefore, to lift many Nigerians out of the poverty trap, the current diversification effort should be pursued aggressively. For now, many Nigerians believe that the diversification drive is moving slowly.
Considering the nation’s abundant natural resources, Nigerians should have no pact with poverty. According to the Nigeria Economic Report, the country has one of the highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4 per cent. At the same time, its poverty level still remains very high at over 33 per cent.
Government at all levels should take responsibility for the nation’s rising poverty and should be worried that the number of out-of-school children has risen to 14 million. It is, therefore, imperative for government and other stakeholders to work in concert to ensure that these children are enrolled in school.
Poverty eradication and wealth distribution should be the focus of government if Nigeria must achieve the 80 per cent financial inclusion target by 2020. In all, government should revive the economy and lift many Nigerians out of extreme poverty.