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Alleviating poverty through pro-poor policies

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Awoyemi

The recent report that Nigeria has the highest number of the poorest of the poor globally is a source of concern that needs to be treated urgently.

Available data indicate six Nigerians slip into poverty every six minutes, and that six out of every 10 Nigerians are also estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

Poverty is characterised by hunger, malnutrition, ill health, unsanitary housing and living conditions, and often without required education and resources to overcome these afflictions.

A World Bank report in April 2014, showed that Nigeria and four other countries are home to nearly 760 million of the world’s poor with Nigeria rated third among countries with the highest population of extreme poor or people with abject poverty in the world.

In the 2014 report, India was rated worst, having 33 per cent of the world’s poor country. In 2018, it came as a huge shock as Nigeria overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.

However, on-going efforts by the Federal Government to alleviate poverty through pro-poor policies targeted at helping the poor and raising their living conditions, through various initiatives such as the National Social Investment Programme (SIP), which is anchored on four components. These include the N-Power Job Creation Programme; National Home Grown School Feeding Programme; Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT); and Social Housing, and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), under the office of the Vice-President seems to be paying off.

The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), believe the worrisome development has continued to be a huge source of concern to the organisation.

The President of NECA, Mohammed Yinusa, at a press briefing recently, noted that government’s strides by the Poverty Index are still insufficient interventions to rid Nigerians of the poverty blight.

He said government at all levels can do a lot more to sustain the reduction of the ravaging poverty scourge, by paying attention to the development of the critical indices of the Human Development Index (HDI) report by United Nations Development Programme  (UNDP), which indicates a country’s quality of life.

The report measured national achievements in Human Development Index in health, education, and income/standard of living in 189 countries.

Nigeria’s HDI value for 2017 was 0.532, leaving it in 157th place out of the 189 countries assessed.

He opined that adequate and sustained attention to these critical indices – health, education, and income/standard of living will ultimately lift the citizens out of the poverty scourge.

Yinusa urged government to prioritise the creation of an enabling environment for large, medium and small enterprises to thrive.

According to him, this is in view of the recognised long-term solution to poverty, which is job creation, improved standard and quality of education, increased access to finance, and policies that encourage investment.

He said in order to complement these efforts of the Federal Government at tackling poverty, “we encourage state governments to initiate prototype programmes to these schemes at their level to the very poor and the vulnerable citizens.”

Similarly, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, had warned that Nigeria might remain the poverty capital of the world till 2050, and even beyond.

Sanusi had said recently at a forum, where he gathered from the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly that current projections showed that Africa will be home to 80 per cent of the world’s poorest people. He said

According to him: “That is not the frightening thing. One half of this 80 per cent will be in Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two countries will account for 40 per cent of all the poor people in the world, and Nigeria will therefore remain the poverty capital of the world.”

He noted that Nigeria has produced many great people, saying: “This is a country that has boasted of the best professors, greatest intellectuals, and the most educated people.

“In 1960, the per capital income in Nigeria was higher than what it was in South Korea, and China. My father was the first ambassador of Nigeria to China in 1972.

“In 1972, he had to go to Hong Kong every two weeks to buy essential commodities because they were not available in Beijing. He could not find milk, sugar, and cornflakes in Beijing; he had to go to Hong Kong in 1972, not 100 years ago.

“In 1974, when Deng Xiaoping started opening up China, there were 700 million Chinese living in extreme poverty. Today, that number is down to only 30 million people in one generation. In 1974, China had only eight million university graduates.

“Today, China has more than 300 million university graduates, more than the entire population of the United States of America. Yet, China did not have direct foreign investments; in fact China stopped it.We talk about miracles, ancient miracles. I don’t like the word miracles because miracles are associated with angels with wings that you do not see, coming from the sky. The Chinese are human beings like us, and they did it.

“So, for all Nigerians, who care about this country, the real task before us is to know that we have 30 years on the outside in which we need to make sure that we do not become the poverty capital of the world, and slum of the world.”

On the Social Intervention Projects (SIP) in the 2019 budget, a total of N500 billion is allocated to Special Intervention Programmes.

Analysts are of the view that the full multiplier effects of social intervention materialise only when they are focused on empowerment, rather than cash transfer, even if it is conditional.

The Chief Executive Officer of Proshare Nigeria, Femi Awoyemi, said that the SIP is a right policy direction and right choice of instrument, stating that learning the right lessons from countries that had gone this route is a wise strategy.

He said if the appropriation bills are passed quickly enough by the National Assembly, and funds are not expropriated from this subheading for other uses (as the NASS did in November 2018, when it vired N121 billion from SIP for funding of 2019 general elections), focusing on the scorecards and impact measurement are key success levers that government should sustain.


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