WHEN the World Bank Group recently rated Nigeria among the world’s extremely poor countries, we did not seem surprised as the statement that Nigeria is a poor country has become an axiom and that majority of Nigerians wallow in abject poverty is no longer news. The fact is that the Nigerian authorities at all levels have resigned themselves to the salient fact and are thus immersed in seeking remedy, howbeit, ineffective to confront the menace. It must be agreed that the Nigerian colourful bird is from the patient specie – waiting without struggle until it is roasted. So are the characteristics of the Nigerian people – they wait until they are pushed to the wall. Having been pushed to the wall, many Nigerians would try and scale the wall as a remedy.
However, it appeared the recent World Bank rating on Nigeria jolted something in the hearts of our political leaders that made them ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘uneasy’. Perhaps, it might be the ‘timing’ of the World Bank rating, considering the fact that we are approaching an election year. Or it is just our leaders doing what they know how to do best – that is being defensive. Though, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had quickly explained that the World Bank rating was based on the large number of poor people living in the country, a phenomenon she said was peculiar to middle income countries, including Nigeria, however in what we can best describe as the government’s move to defend itself and make itself look good in the eyes of the international community; the managers of the Nigerian economy quickly carried out a “rebasing exercise” of the nation’s GDP.
According to the preliminary results of the rebasing exercise of the federal government, Nigeria’s nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at $509.9 billion, making the nation’s economy the largest in Africa and the 26th in the world. The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, announced this with the Statistician-General, S-G, Dr. Yemi Kale, in Abuja recently. The GDP is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. It is an internationally recognized indicator for measuring the size of an economy in a given period of time. The rebased estimates indicate that the nominal GDP for Nigeria was much higher than previously estimated. In 2010 the estimate was $360. 644 billion; in 2011 it was $408.805 billion; and 2012 $453.966 billion. The growth rate is driven by the services sector with it contributing about 51 per cent of the GDP. The rebasing exercise on the Nigerian economy which also saw the Per capita rising to $2, 688, covered 2010 to 2013. Nigeria has moved on the per capita scale from 135 to 121st position.
Let us bear in mind that this is after more than two decades of the last exercise in 1990, far beyond the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), recommendations that countries should rebase their national accounts (GDP) estimates every five years. Which brings us back to the point we made here; was the rebasing exercise carried out by the managers of the Nigerian economy to sort of counter, douse, and distract Nigerians away from the World Bank poverty rating of Nigeria? How come is it now that the managers of the Nigerian economy see it necessary to rebase the economy after the last exercise was carried out over two decades ago? Why was the rebase exercise carried out now? Was the World Bank poverty report index a ‘too much blow’ for the current administration to handle? A careful observer of the happenings in the country needs no soothsayer to answer these questions.
Funny enough, just few days after  those in government circles were still basking under the euphoria of the supposed ‘good news’ concerning the nation’s rebased GDP, the World Bank President,  Jim Yong Kim, at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, restated that Nigeria is one of the top five countries that has the largest number of poor. Nigeria, he said ranked third in the world while India ranked number one with 33 per cent of the world poor. China is ranked second with 13 per cent of the world’s poor, followed by Nigeria where seven per cent of the world poor live in. He said that Bangladesh has six per cent share of the world’s poor while the Democratic Republic of Congo has five per cent of the world’s poor population. Jim Yong Kim said these five countries are home to 760 million of the world’s poor, adding that another five countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya would encompass almost 80 per cent of the extreme poor.
Noting that a sharp focus on these will be central to ending poverty, the world Bank President said “while economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, according to a new World Bank paper released recently. It was noted that “Countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor. These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programs, such as conditional and direct cash transfers. It is imperative not just to lift people out of extreme poverty; it is also important to make sure that, in the long run, they do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to a lack of opportunities that might impede progress toward better livelihoods. Economic growth has been vital for reducing extreme poverty and improving the lives of many poor people. Yet, even if all countries grow at the same rates as over the past 20 years, and if the income distribution remains unchanged, world poverty will only fall by 10 percent by 2030, from 17.7 percent in 2010. This is simply not enough, and we need a laser like focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programmes to assist the poor directly if we’re going to end extreme poverty.”
Kim added: “To end extreme poverty, the vast numbers of the poorest – those earning less than $1.25 a day – will have to decrease by 50 million people each year until 2030. This means that one million people each week will have to lift themselves out of poverty for the next 16 years. This will be extraordinarily difficult, but I believe we can do it. This can be the generation that ends extreme poverty. “Growth alone is unlikely to end extreme poverty by 2030 because as extreme poverty declines, growth on its own tends to lift fewer people out of poverty. This is because, by this stage, many of the people still in extreme poverty live in situations where improving their lives is extremely difficult. Even if there is no change in inequality, the “poverty-reducing power” of economic growth is less in countries that are initially more unequal.”
The bottom line is that the high GDP of Nigeria that came as a result of the rebased exercise, does not in any way translate to better living conditions for the entire citizenry, neither does it mean the standard of living of majority of Nigerians has improved or is even improving. Reports on the so called strength of the Nigerian economy by government functionaries may be good on paper, but they remain artificial to many Nigerians. So, a robust GDP figure does not put food on our table, neither does it address the so many problems and poverty daily choking the life of millions of Nigerians.
It is obvious that the country‘s poverty is a direct consequence of the nation‘s inability to seek remedy against the dreaded scourge of poverty. It is either that the remedy against poverty and want is inadequate or the right remedy applied in insufficient doses. Often, wrong medicine (policy) is used for a disease