December 5, 2022

Lack of economic productivity reason most Nigerians live in poverty – Expert

An economic expert, Dr Boniface Chizea, has said that lack of economic productivity is why most Nigerians live in poverty.

Chizea made this disclosure to DAILY POST on Friday while reacting to the latest National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Multidimensional Poverty Index, MPI, report.

In perspective, the Report released on Thursday revealed that 133 million, 65 percent of Nigerians live in poverty.

The Report’s findings stemmed from the level of deprivation Nigerians experience in health, education, security and work.

Further insight into the data stated Sokoto, Bayelsa, Gombe and Kebbi states ranked the highest in the poverty index. However, Ondo State ranked the lowest in MPI with 27%, with Sokoto ranking the highest at 91%.

Also, in terms of region, the North part of Nigeria recorded a 65% poverty rate compared to 45% in the South.

Reacting to the Report, Chizea said part of the problem of Nigeria historically has been what is referred to as the ‘Dutch disease’, implying that the country has underperformed because of its over-reliance on one resource (Crude Oil).

He said: “We must not be surprised that the National Bureau of Statistics has estimated the multiple dimensional Poverty Index in the country at 133 million persons representing 65% of the population of Nigerians. This data confirms what most of us already feel and suspect.

“My position on the reliability of the index is that we should imbibe the habit of cutting National Institutions charged with such specific responsibilities of producing targeted data a slack by giving them the benefit of the doubt. We should expect them to be professional in the discharging of such assignments as there will be no reasons whatsoever for it to be otherwise. Therefore there is no need to argue with the figures and the major centres of poverty in the country as highlighted in the Report.

“The reason for this situation is not far-fetched. It is directly due to lack of productivity in the economy. All it takes is to remember that the official data on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is under 3% per annum. When your population growth rate is higher than your GDP rate as a Nation you are on the highway to entrenching poverty in the Land.

“The reasons why we don’t have economic productivity are well rehearsed. It is partly historic, even if untoward contemporary developments, Covid 19 and the senseless ongoing Russia/Ukraine war.

“Historical causes are largely due to what has been commonly referred to as the “Dutch Disease.” This is a situation whereby countries with natural endowment underperform because of unwholesome concentration on resources from this one source. In Nigeria we were conscious that as far back as 1986, we articulated the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), which had the sole thrust of diversifying the country so that revenue could also accrue from non-oil sources. But despite an expertly formulated Program, we needed more implementation, and that is the long and short of the problem. Today we all collectively bemoan our failure in this regard.

“The other area of the problem we had was wrong policy choices. We have a natural endowment in fossil fuels but cannot refine what we consume. We imported all the refined products we consumed and ended up not recovering the cost of importation over many years. The subsidy we paid ballooned out of hand as it became a cesspool for rampant corruption. In summary, this explains why productivity has eluded us as a Nation, amongst other offshoot-related reasons.

“There are also those who think that we should have floated the Naira to allow the exchange rate to be determined by the market. But the fundamental problem is that you don’t have a market in this respect in the country. What sort of market is where you only have one dominant supplier with an insatiable volume of demands? And for those of us who have been around for some time, there is no manner of experimentation that we have not tried, only to beat a retreat as the reality of the free-falling rate of exchange stares us in the face. No doubt floating the Naira is on the cards as soon as we are in a position to drastically reduce demand through, for instance, the termination of fuel importation.

“What to do is well known. We need the political will to actualize the strategies we have dutifully identified. We hope that elections 2023 will unleash the much-anticipated change in paradigm. This change we all await must enthrone nascent pristine values that will make our leaders selfless as they eschew corruption in all its ramifications as the country’s future is prioritized as they pilot National affairs”,he stated.

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