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World Bank support against poverty

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Now that the World Bank Group has said that the multilateral institution is focused on supporting the federal government’s bid to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty; an opportunity has emerged for President Muhammadu Buhari to walk the talk of his government tackling social inequality and entrenching better standards of living for the people; In particular, government’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next decade should be a starting point to unleashing a holistic battle to drastically reduce poverty in Nigeria. It remains unacceptable that upon its huge potential and resources, the country is seen as the world capital of poverty.

President Buhari should seize the moment and latch on the promise of the global financial institution’s commitment to supporting the government in its efforts to promote growth, job creation and shared prosperity; because the negative consequence of poverty is huge and is badly manifesting in all spheres of the country’s life, including health, education and more especially insecurity.

According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017, countries with higher income inequality suffer from higher levels of insecurity and violence.  The Report found that countries with high levels of income inequality had, on average, a homicide rate that was nine times greater than countries where income was more evenly distributed; which could explain the increasing rate of suicide in Nigeria.

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In terms of measuring poverty, the Nigeria Poverty Profile, says that poverty goes beyond mere measurement of a household’s expenditure or welfare as it has many dimensions, which include inadequate access to government utilities and services, poor access to health care, growth of unsanitary urban slums and other environmental issues, poor infrastructure, the burden of demand for services and its attendant consequence on school enrolment, illiteracy and ignorance, insecurity that has become a major threat to the agricultural sector with implications for food security, and social and political exclusion.

These are the realities of Nigeria and media commentaries reinforce the findings of these reports. Thus, Nigeria should embrace the World Bank offer to support lift of 100 million Nigerians out of poverty. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is an indispensable requirement for the achievement of inclusive and peaceful societies, which are what Nigeria urgently needs.

Given that the World Bank’s offer to support Nigeria lift citizens out of poverty is in tandem with the views of experts, who have argued that achieving poverty reduction requires having the right tools and partnerships such that everyone has a chance to thrive in a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable country; Nigeria should see it as part of a multi-dimensional action in the drive to promote prosperity and to end poverty.

Since the World Bank proposed support will come in the form of partnership by helping attract private investment to crowd in financing for investments in infrastructure and human capital through public-private partnerships and foreign direct investments without increasing public debt levels, Nigeria should hit the ground running with the proposal. Notwithstanding, conditionalities should be carefully reviewed by experts to avoid a fiasco and a catch-22 situation.

Internally, the Federal Government should massively overhaul its current national programmes on social safety nets to reach people living below the poverty line. It should implement far-reaching policies to reduce inequality and promote social and macro-economic resilience, such as tax reforms, the strengthening of labour standards and the expansion of the social protection systems and universal health coverage.

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Essentially, for any meaningful economic growth and poverty reduction, there is the need to develop an enhanced welfare model with the ambition and ability to guarantee all inhabitants improved access to social services.

Thus, policy makers should look in the direction of bold inequality-reducing and growth-inducing policies such as quality, affordable and accessible health care, public education, housing and other essential services; and address unemployment, especially for young people and those at risk of marginalization in order to have inclusive growth.

As a long term measure, the legislatures in all tiers of government should prepare an implementable road map with specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) objectives that will span five to ten years. This will be appropriate after assessing the state of the manufacturing sector, textile construction industries; and visiting the villages and slums in their constituencies to assess the state of education, health care, roads; level of unemployment, under-employment; and access to land, loans and other factors of production. All these are critical to driving growth and creating several new jobs in the non-oil sector such as agriculture, entertainment and telecommunications.

This should be replicated at the state and local government levels. All tires of government should work in synergy with one another, for improved outcomes in the country’s quest to tackle poverty and its horrifying menace.

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