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Much Ado Over Report By Brookings Institute

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In this report CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes on the tango that ensued between the federal government  and the opposition on the Brookings Institute Report which gave a gloomy depiction of the economy in Nigeria.

It’s election season and every data, positive or negative, is becoming a political weapon. Such is the case with the recent report by the  Brookings Institution, based in Washington, United States, which painted a gloomy picture of the country’s poverty index. This situation has since sparked a debate between the Federal government and the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The, report titled, ‘The Start of a New Poverty Narrative,’ showed that Nigeria has assumed the highest number of extremely poor people, a report by Brookings Institute has shown.

Before now, India used to hold the position with a population of 1.324 billion people as against Nigeria’s 200 million.

The report said “According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number 2 spot.”

It continued “At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million. What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall.

“In fact, by the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there is today.

“Africans account for about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and that If current trends persist, Africa will account for nine-tenths by 2030.

“Fourteen out of 18 countries in the world—where the number of extreme poor is rising—are in Africa.”

In March this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had said Nigerians are getting poorer, saying there is a need for coherent and comprehensive economic reforms. Reports from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have been received differently as well.

Expectedly, the leadership of the PDP cashed in on the report, hoping to put the ruling party on the defensive. In a statement from his media office, national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, blamed the APC-led federal government for the poor governance that has put Nigeria in the situation.

He said “The situation under APC administration is seeming irredeemable from all indications yet they continue to shift the blame of their ineptness to PDP.”

Secondus warned that the signs are apparent that what APC federal government wants is to ground the country ahead of 2019 so that the coast will be straight for them to cruise to power at the expense of Nigerian voters. The national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, also blamed the APC for the situation as well.

Reacting however, the national publicity secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi, said, “We find it quite amusing, the PDP’s ill informed attempt to politicise the recent poverty reports by a United States think-tank. Of course we do not expect the PDP to be aware that the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics releases report on poverty rates every year to help the work of policy planners and not to play politics. The only difference however is that such reports were never allowed seeing the lights of the day under the PDP administration. Yet, this is the same party under who Nigeria was not able to achieve a single one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which they conveniently turned to another racket. For avoidance of doubts, we refer the PDP to a similar report by the Fitch International in 2016, which reported that a “constant decline” since 2011 culminating in Nigeria’s 60 percent poverty rating by 2015. The challenge of poverty is a global challenge and not a competition among countries or a race for the bottom. Our party acknowledges this challenge and will continue to work hard with both local and international partners to find solutions. What we will not do is to exploit the reality of poverty to create another ineffectual “palliative” that will end up as another slush fund or “job for the boys.”

But the federal government however dismissed the horrible scenario being painted by the report. Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalamah, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa said the latest Bookings Institute’s rating of Nigeria as the headquarters of poverty in the world should not bother Nigerians because the report may have been compiled when the nation was in economic recess.

Enalamah explained that federal government’s ongoing investment in infrastructure is creating jobs and wealth for the poor to get out of poverty.

He said, “We need to understand when we get these reports that there are reports that are lagging in indicators which means, people are reporting on history. There are reports that are leading indicators, which means that they are forward looking and, of course, there are reports that capture generally what you do which is current.

“They are actually dealing with what is current. So, when you get reports from Brookings Institute or all sorts of people, you need to look at the context. Somebody may have written a report when we were in recession. Remember that if you are in a recession, what it means is that even though your population is growing, people don’t stop procreating, which means that in theory, depending on how they run those numbers, you will be going the other way.

“There is absolutely no question that there is an urgency to create employment in Nigeria and it has to be a collective responsibility. What I can tell you, with certainty based on one’s background in business and economics, is that if we complete the things on infrastructure and you implement these reports we are doing- that is what I mean by a leading indicator- poverty will go down. There is no magic to it. But you have to do it first.

“You have to put in the infrastructure; you have to implement the economic programme which is what will create the opportunities. They don’t drop from the sky. So, I think we should roll up our sleeves as a people and do the work because if we don’t do it and our people continue to bear children, obviously they would get poorer”

The minister further disclosed that FEC approved the sum of N3.172 payment to consultants for the development of zones for effective implementation of Projects Made in Nigeria Exports (MINE).

The zones, according to him, include those in Lagos State, Lekki Free Trade Zone Area, one in Katsina in Funtau Cotton Cluster Zone Area and another one in Abia in Enyimba City, adding that other zones to be developed are in Calabar and Kano.

The report according to analysts, has since assumed a reference point for political reasons ahead of 2019. However, in a clime where institutions are weakened by political allegiances, the expectation is that the welfare of the masses will supersede the gimmicks of state actors.

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