Let’s judge governments by jobs created – Part 2
Associated with factory closures is the loss of jobs and the current unemployment crisis (about 10.4%) besetting our country is a legacy of anti-job creation policies of previous administrations. As President Muhammadu Buhari mentioned in China during his current visit, the existing huge trade imbalance between Nigeria and the world’s second largest economy, China has to be bridged and that can only be done if and when Nigerian businessmen and women start partnering with their Chinese counterparts to produce locally, the items that we are currently importing.
A critical facilitator or ingredient for such business relationship to blossom is stable supply of electricity and other infrastructure that enhance manufacturing such as transportation facilities like improved road networks, more modern railway lines and efficient sea and air ports to enhance distribution of goods. The present situation, whereby the only business model is importation of Chinese finished products into Nigeria and export of our crude oil to China, does not augur well as it is antithetical to the erstwhile import substitution policy of Nigeria which President Buhari has vowed to pursue more vigorously.
Hopefully, apart from funds, one of the things that the President and his team that visited China, would seek to borrow from the Chinese, is how they dealt with the inadequate power and energy challenges that initially hobbled her economic growth but was resolved and thereafter enabled China achieve the ‘Great Leap’ that propelled her into the prime position of being the foremost factory to the world.
The construction of a dam over the famous Yangtze river (the three gorges dam) that stretches across 400 miles and was responsible for most of the monsoons that led to loss of millions of lives, helped China achieve energy sufficiency, and therefore a good candidate for emulation by Nigeria as we benchmark that country for progress.
With the unprecedented N1.8 trillion allocated to capital projects in Budget 2016, Nigeria can be transformed into a major construction site, especially if the $6 billion loan that is being vaunted as a promise from China for investment in infrastructure becomes reality.
From harnessing electricity through solar power and wind mill factories to be sited in the deserts adjacent to Katsina and Kano states, to converting the hydro resources abundant in Mambilla plateau in Taraba State, into a dams for generation of electricity power like the existing ones in Shiroro and Kainji area of Niger State. And by also taking advantage of the gas fields preponderant in the Niger Delta, coupled with leveraging the huge coal deposits in Enugu State and environ for utility as coal mines, Nigeria would be able to power factories in partnership with Chinese investors for manufacturing of goods to satisfy our local consumption and perhaps with enough to export to neighbouring countries.
Given the scenario above, it now behoves each of the 36 governors and 774 local council chairmen nationwide, to woo and lure entrepreneurs to their domains by making them more investor-friendly through provision of enabling environment like roads and electricity infrastructure, as well as incentives like tax holidays and private public partnership (PPP), arrangements.
So, going forward, instead of focusing on the size of the budget set aside for a project, and the value of the contracts awarded – in terms of the quantum of funds to be disbursed as contract sum, let’s start judging our governments both at the federal, state and local levels by the number of jobs created through their development initiatives to determine their impact in their domain.
Currently, growth and progress in our economy are measured by the gross domestic product, GDP which is a sophisticated barometer of the sum total of volume and value of economic activities carried out in a specific period in a community or country. Experience in Africa, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, has shown that the method is somehow warped, as it mainly captures the fortune of the top 1% super rich and hardly reflects the misfortune of the 99% long suffering working and jobless masses in the middle or lower rung of the ladder whose economy is underground and as such may likely not be captured in a regular GDP template.
During a recent debate on whether or not GDP is an optimal development indicator in Africa, following the palpable poverty manifesting on the streets in Africa, from Kano to Kigali, despite impressive GDP growth in Africa, it was reported that, the immediate past Africa Development Bank (AfDB) president, Francis Kaberuka, among other bureaucrats noted that GDP may not be a proper gauge. I would like to stretch that thought process further by adding that GDP is probably a deceptive measure of the state of the economy in Africa, as it does not directly or immediately reveal the number of people in the society that have roofs over their heads and food on their tables.
By applying a new rule, such as the number of people in employment as a yardstick for measuring progress and development in Nigeria, the true state of affairs can really be determined because every employed person is more likely to afford to rent or own a home and would also be able to have the proverbial three ‘square’ meals a day.
Another yardstick Nigeria could adopt for gauging progress in our society should be inflation rate. This reflects the hunger or poverty rate in the society because it is a direct measure of the cost of food, housing, transportation, health care and other essential utilities in the society. Following the current dislocations in the economy of Nigeria, inflation is about 10.8%, according to the latest figures from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). To get a clearer picture of how bad such inflation rate is, compare it to UK’s rate which is a mere 0.5%.
Clearly, from the foregoing scenarios, unemployment and inflation rates in a society would serve as better, more practical and realistic prognosis than the sophisticated GDP tool applied in the industrialised Western economies. This is why it is very important to make a strong case for a paradigm shift to using jobs creation to assess the impact of our elected political office holders particularly for those in the executive arm of government. No longer would ministers and commissioners at the federal and state levels respectively, after the weekly or monthly federal or state executive council meetings, merely announce the value of the contracts awarded in terms of money to be expended.
Henceforth, emphasis should be on the number of jobs to be created and the impact of the projects on the people in the community in particular or society at large.
Going forward, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and Executive Councils at state level should tell Nigerians after their weekly meetings, how many Nigerians’ policies and programmes have taken off from the list of millions of unemployed Nigerians. That is the change Nigerians voted for and the least they expect now.
While l was researching this article, l came across a similar policy being applied by one of the states in the Niger Delta. In Delta State for instance, the governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, upon assumption of office embarked on implementing his campaign promise, tagged STEP-acronyms for Skills Training Entrepreneurship Programme, which is a subset of his major mantra campaign – SMART. In 2015,1070 trainees consisting of 664 males and 406 females were admitted into 116 training centres across the state, where skills as sophisticated as computer hardware repairs to practical ones like hairdressing, tailoring, cosmetology, events management and block and interlocking stones mould were taught. That does not sound like much but lam told it is a continuous process of many circles.
The beauty of the SMART agenda is that it is the overarching Key Performance Indicator, KPI, for the state government. In other words, the government wants to be judged by the number of jobs created not just by the number of infrastructure like roads, schools and health care institutions. Accordingly, the KPI is designed to capture jobs that are created directly and indirectly through the SMART and STEP programmes.
I particularly like the philosophy underpinning the initiative and, therefore, recommend it to other states and the Federal Government because that is the best way to alleviate poverty since an employed person would have a roof over his or her head just as he or she would not go to bed on empty stomach.
• Onyibe, a development strategist and futurologist, is a former commissioner in Delta State and alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA.
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