Nigeria making mistake by rejecting Brookings Institute Poverty Report – Don

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AUSTIN Nweze, a university don advises Nigeria not to reject the United States-based Brookings Institute report on extreme poverty in the country and take measures to address it

By Anayo Ezugwu

Austin Nweze, lecturer, Pan-Atlantic University and economic analyst, has faulted the response of the federal government to the World Poverty Clock report released by Brookings Institute based in United States. The report estimated that 87 million Nigerians are currently living in extreme poverty. But the government said the data used by the rating institute was based on poor economic indices obtained when Nigeria was under recession.

Nweze said the government is making the same mistake the previous administration made when World Bank reported that the country was ranked very poorly in the easy of doing business. He said that statistics has shown that the report is accurate. He noted that the standard of living of the masses showed that there is poverty in the country.

According to him, in the 1990s when former president of United States came to Nigeria, they reported that 40 percent of Nigerians were living under poverty line. He said when the same people returned again in 2000, the poverty index had gone to 71 percent.

“In 1990-1991, World Bank declared India technically bankrupt, they didn’t dispute the report. Rather they did something. They admitted the report. But in Nigeria’s case, the government has described the report as old data. They need to admit it and then fine solutions to it. Even experts have dismissed the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, that it will not solve Nigeria’s problem.

“Nigeria needs to go back to the fundamentals. In the first place, how this nation was constituted is not designed to create wealth for the people. The policies, even from the colonial masters were not people oriented. We cannot grow beyond this and that is why people are still poor.”

According to him, “We need to begin to find a way of creating wealth. If we say that we are going to create wealth for the people, you first of all look at the natural endowments that we have, start from there. We have a document from government agency that shows what we can do. Develop some of these areas to create industries. Without thinking we cannot do all of these. We need to become original equipment manufacturer not when we need raw material we run to China.”

Nweze said government needs to provide a low hanging fruit which would alleviate some of the immediate challenges of the people. According to him, government has a medium term plan and a longer term plan and by the time it achieves the later, people must have died.

“So it is critical that you have some low hanging fruit which is not difficult to find. The thing is, how are we making sure that those small businesses survive. Without small businesses no economy can grow; every economy that is big today started from the small business economy.

“There are so many government policies against small businesses. For instance, the taxes that small businesses pay are huge and government is even trying to increase the tax. How many small businesses can borrow money with this kind of interest rate. Interest rate has a way of influencing the entire economy. With interest rate of 21 percent, how are you going to produce products that would compete out there?” he said.

Reacting to the development, Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of industry, trade and investment, said government is making huge investments in infrastructure, which will, in the long run address the problem of poverty in the country.

“When you get reports from Brooking 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, your growth fact, 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. 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 will continue to bear children. Obviously, they would get poorer,” he said.

– Jun. 29, 2018 @ 11:19 GMT |

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