By Teslim olawore
President Muhammadu Buhari explains the factors responsible for the high growth figures, rising poverty and unemployment rate recorded in Nigeria today, while declaring open the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit (NES), which held in Abuja with the theme, “From Poverty to Prosperity: Making Governance and Institutions Work’’.
Buhari was represented by the vice president Yemi Osinbajo, he said that the summit had proved resilient in promoting dialogue and collaboration between government and the private sector. He said that absolute poverty, defined as the number of those who could not afford the bare essentials such as food, shelter and clothing had been the biggest economic challenge for Nigeria in the past three decades.
The president also highlighted that the biggest drain on Nigeria’s resources was grand corruption by top government officials and their private accomplice. He said that the problem of poverty and high growth of population led to deficits in human development.
According to him, over 60 per cent of the projected population will be young people with about 1.4 million entering the job market on a yearly basis. Buhari, however, explained the paradox of high growth figures amid rising poverty and unemployment figures.
“The first being that high oil revenues are not necessarily matched with high rate of employment. The high revenues can only lead to creation of jobs and improve the living standards if the revenues are invested in diversification of the economy, infrastructure, education, healthcare, and social protection for those who cannot work. The second reason being poor investment in infrastructure and the non-creation of an enabling environment for business and also the lack of commitment to diversification of the economy; which would in turn provide multiple streams of revenue.
According to the president, the Federal Government is also focusing on infrastructure support for markets and small business clusters, welfare for the most vulnerable and direct creation of jobs. He also said that his administration is also committing at least 30 per cent of budget on capital, especially infrastructure. He listed other measures aimed at addressing poverty as diversifying the economy especially agriculture, mining and the promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Others are strong fiscal discipline, especially zero tolerance for grand corruption; support to states for payments of salaries and emoluments; social protection programmes covering at least five million of the poorest. The president said that his administration has invested so far a total of N2.7trillon in capital spending; the highest ever in the history of the country.
This covers investments in rail, roads, power and dams. “In diversifying the economy, Agriculture has been a major success story with increasing budgetary allocation to Agriculture from N8.8 billion in 2015 to N46.2 billion in 2016 and N103.8 billion in 2017,’’ he said. He further expressed regret that the international community did not give enough support and cooperation in Nigeria’s quest to repatriate looted funds.