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Written By Dele Sobowale
The rates of unemployment and under-employment increased in 2017 and poverty is estimated to have increased slightly — World Bank in report titled Connecting to Compete.
YOU don’t need me to tell you that the country about which the World Bank made that remark is Nigeria. While Buhari was in the White House being scolded like a slow school boy by President Trump about his responsibilities to his people, the World Bank was confirming what every Nigerian already knew about the state of the economy.
Nigerians on the aggregate ended last year, and started this year, poorer than when Buhari came into office in May 2015. Naturally, as we come to the end of Buhari’s third year in office, it is imperative for us to ask a few questions about the economic situation in the country. The place to start is to ask the question: are you better off now than in May 29, 2015?
The next question is just as important because it should determine how you will vote in 2019. The question is: do you expect Buhari to improve on your situation this year, next year and in 2020 given the track record so far? The World Bank has already helped us out by publishing its report cited above. That report had delivered a damning verdict on Buhari’s economic stewardship to date. After a mostly avoidable recession in 2016, the economy recovered by growing by 0.80 per cent in 2017.
The cumulative effect of recession in 2016 and low growth in 2017 were the reported increases in national unemployment, under-employment and poverty. The professional liars and amateur propagandists in Buhari’s government have so far failed to find a way to claim any credit for improving on our lives. They and the President have resorted to repeating accusations against former governments as if that is what will put food on the table and help to pay children’s school fees.
So, the answer to the first question is: Nigerians have become poorer under Buhari after three years in office. Remember that when you listen to them talking. In fact, the aggregate per capita income has declined below the 2012 level under this clueless Buhari government. Unfortunately for “My Fellow Nigerians”, there is no light at the end of the Buhari tunnel into which the country has entered. Again the World Bank report is my witness. According to that report, “Gross Domestic Product growth in 2018 is expected to hover just over two per cent, largely oil sector driven.”
For those not versed in economics, that statement by the World Bank needs to be explained. The two per cent growth expected in 2018, mostly oil-sector driven means first of all that with population expected to grow by three per cent, Nigerians will get poorer in 2018 than we were in 2017. In terms of economic welfare Nigerians under Buhari are in progressive reversal. All the economic gains made under previous administrations are now being reversed by this government. Thus on Election Day 2019, poverty would have again deepened, unemployment and under-employment would have increased and we would be back to pre-2000 economic levels. Remember that too.
The next question which every reasonable Nigerian should ask is: can the current economic programmes of the Buhari administration lift us out of poverty and joblessness? Another way of asking the question is: can Buhari get us out of the economic quagmire in which we find ourselves? The answer is sadly NO! As long as Buhari is President of Nigeria, the economy will continue to experience low GDP growth compared with high population growth. The Nigerian economy will never be able to create enough jobs to absorb the existing army of the unemployed and under-employed, as well as the coming battalions of graduates on universities, polytechnics and secondary schools.
Take the 2018 Budget for example. The primary goal of every annual budget in any country is to address the level of employment so as to create a larger pool of consumers, tax payers and to avert increasing poverty. The 2018 budget, like all the two previous budgets presented by this government makes no provisions for job creation and certainly none for rapid growth of GDP.
The Federal Government is not even serious about its budget which has not been passed till now. Buhari was in the UK and USA to visit two leaders who could not have allowed their countries’ budgets to be delayed for so long without consequences. Both May and Trump must be wondering about the sense of responsibility of the man sitting with them who feels free to roam the globe with the nation’s budget for the year in doubt.
The greatest hope for this administration lies in the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP being actively promoted by the Minister for Budget and National Planning. There are two problems associated with ERGP, however. The fast GDP growth promised under it would not occur until Nigerians have re-elected Buhari. That amounts to asking the people to take a risk with a demonstrable failure in the hope that he will change for the better.
That is contrary to the verdict of history even in Africa, Mugabe did not improve as he aged. He got worse. Nothing suggests that Buhari can learn new things.
At any rate ERGP cannot stand in isolation when a government is so poor. Unfortunately again, even if the 2018 budget had been passed in January, it still has no provisions for rapid growth.
Nigerians will get increasingly poorer as long as Buhari is President. The choice ultimately is ours to make in 2019. On the other hand we can try someone else as leader. This time it should be someone who understands how a modern economy works; not an economic illiterate.