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Monday, October 8, 2012

POVERTY, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND NIGERIA’S QUEST FOR PROSPERITY



It was Karl max, the 19th century German Philosopher cum Economist, who in a reaction to a book written on poverty title, ‘the economics of poverty’, quipped that the right title should have been, ‘poverty of economics’. The same drama is playing in Nigeria today with our grow model, a situation of growth with wide spread poverty; caused by a failed economic model that sees nothing wrong with poverty in the mid of plenty. While the World Bank and IMF inclined economic management team of Jonathan’s regime talk of economic growth of more than 7%, critical commentators talk of high poverty rate that Nigeria never experienced in its entire 52 years history. What an irony! While the so called growth inducing economic model used by Nigeria that champion rapid economic growth over equality, development of urban centres at the detriment of the rural areas (that hold most of Nigeria’s population), consumption over production, individual over community, and exceptional drive for the accumulation of wealth by all means including fraud. Poverty has today become part and parcel of Nigerian existence, many Nigerian poor thinks it is natural and God destined that Nigerian masses should remain in abject poverty. Chronic poverty where a whole family of more than five lives on less than $2 per day is very visible in Nigeria’s rural areas that carried most of Nigeria population. But for economic growth, the country has abundance of it, it is forecasted that in the next two to three years Nigeria is going to become the biggest economy in Africa, a head of South Africa. According to the Independence Day speech of President Jonathan this October, Nigeria is now the top foreign direct investment destination in Africa, accounting for some 20% of incoming FDI into the continent. The richest man on the continent is from Nigeria; likewise the biggest oil reserve. But all these notwithstanding, poverty remains a Nigerian phenomenon. While in welfare states of Europe unemployed people received monthly payment from government to relieve their jobless condition, there is no such thing for a Nigerian unemployed graduate who resort to kidnapping and all sort of crime to make ends meet.
  Nigeria a land of many contrasts! Nigeria has some of the most corrupt leaders on the continent. This is not to talk of corrupt business people who connive with those in the position of authority to steal the country dry. With all the resources that God has endowed Nigeria with, it is a pity that Nigerian masses have to endow the kind of hardship they are presently going through. Less endowed countries around the world are making it and their people are happy for it. But for the Nigerian poor (sorry!), the elite that colonized (like colonial Britain) all resources will not allow him such a luxury. The conventional economic model we are using is very unsympathetic to the plight of the poor; but who cares, is it not all about ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘the ends justify the means’? In the World Bank-IMF neo-classical grow model we are using (under the anchorship of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala formerly of the same World Bank), the wicked model assumes that the poor are not to be taken care of until in the long run (the very end) when the rich and the powerful had enough. But, the poor is dead by that time, as the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes famously observed. Thus, any right thinking person will see why the Nigerian elite enjoys this model so much; that has no room for kindness, benevolence, sympathy, and generosity. Oop! I have forgotten, this our model is a scientific model that did not mixed ethical considerations such as equity, generosity, and sympathy with scientific consideration such as wealth accumulation by few. But, the same model is happy to romance together with corruption and electoral manipulations. It is in this up and down of life that all Nigerians should expect their country to enter the league of twenty largest economies in the world by 2020. As she race up with growth rate of 7-9% none stop, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) here we come.
   In term of resourceful individuals in all human endeavors Nigeria has plenty, both within and outside the country. Natural resources? We have that too, across all geographical parts of the country. The only important ingredient that is missing in the equation is leadership. This alone is what the country is deficient in, because without good leadership there is nowhere you can make effective use of the resources I have made mention of above, that Nigeria is endowed with. In a country where poverty meets insecurity, what you should expect is break down of law and order, exactly the situation we are in today. Boko Haram suicide bombers mixed with Niger Delta militants, South East kidnappers and South West area thieves, the result is total insecurity of lives and property and confusion. Insecurity, notwithstanding, the Nigerian economy continues on its growth pass; in the last eight months of this year alone the economy grow at the rate of about 7.5%. As we move to become the economic super power we aspire to be, our economic engine drivers must change gear, because high grow rate that do nothing to reduce poverty and unemployment will in the end result in the generation of violence; that will certainly not argue well for the country. The earlier the authorities begin to include poor in their grow agenda the better, for growth without development tantamount to none Balance Growth as is the case with a human body. When a part of man body system grows at the expense of other parts, we say the body is ill; Balance Growth entails equal development of all parts of that body. Let there be justice, for where there is no justice, anything is possible including our present condition.