Growing poverty – Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics



The release of National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) Living Standards Survey for 2019 stating that 40.1 percent of Nigerians are poor (meaning that 4 out of 10 Nigerians) are poor is frightening and should be worrisome to federal and state government leaders alike.

The announcement by NBS that the survey covered September 2018 to October 2019 makes the findings extremely concerning, given the fact that the high number of people in poverty in the country refers to poverty that existed before the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The revelation that three months before the onset of COVID-19 in China, 82.9 million Nigerians were living in poverty must make people shudder at what the numbers for next year might be.

This terrifying situation calls for new strategies by the three tiers of government on how to arrest poverty. Moreover, that 52% of people in rural areas are poor in relation to 18% in urban areas (meaning largely state capitals) calls for new thinking on the part of governors and local government leaders.

The reason advanced for creating 36 states and 774 local governments is that bringing government to the grassroots would bring development to these two subnational levels.

And the reason provided for leaving 53% of national revenue under control of the Federal Government is to provide funds for the central government to give required leadership for national development.

But, having about half of the population in poverty calls for a fiscal intervention that can boost economic production, revenue generation for the three levels of government, and a commitment at each level to address inequity in distribution.

Political leaders ought to see this survey as a report card that underscores failure of government at all levels to do the needful: stimulating and sustaining a strong economy and recognising the dangers of rising inequality in the land.

As alarming as it may be that four out of 10 Nigerians are poor, the governments need to wake up to the fact that economic conditions in the country are worsening and are likely to get worse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There is an urgent need for a rescue plan.

The rescue plan ought to include strategies for responding to many of the perennial problems facing the country: continued drain on resources from Boko Haram terrorism; periodic collapse of price of crude oil; rising insecurity across the land; threat of population explosion; and commitment of 25% of annual budget to debt servicing, not to mention the ongoing threat to the economy by COVID-19.

As the government focuses on the fight against the pandemic and relief to the suffering masses, it also needs to change its laissez-faire approach to education, provision of other infrastructure, such as electricity, water, roads, health care, security of life and property, etc.

An intensive focus on these areas are likely to put the economy on the path to development, more so if morality is returned to governance through consistent measures to prevent new corruption in addition to efforts to recover old loot from corrupt public officers. And a data-driven, means-tested social assistance to the poor ought to be at the core of a rescue plan.

In the interim, the Federal Government ought to partner with other developing countries to negotiate a moratorium on debt payment.

In addition to grants and other aid from the international community to assist Nigeria to cope with effects of the pandemic, there is no better time for development partners to assist Nigeria to deploy about 20% of its annual budget reserved for debt servicing to revitalising the economy and create more jobs to reduce poverty.

Such assistance can be used to improve the economy and reduce unemployment and poverty. There is no better time for our governments to learn from the old saying: “A stitch in time saves nine.”

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