BY: ONOME AMUGE
As many as four in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line, while many Nigerians, especially in the northern region, lack education and access to basic infrastructure, such as electricity, safe drinking water, and improved sanitation, according to a new World Bank report.
The report titled, “A Better Future for All Nigerians: Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022”, noted that sluggish growth, low human capital, labour market weaknesses, and exposure to shocks are hindering Nigeria’s poverty reduction drive.
Centred on a culmination of the World Bank’s engagement on poverty- and inequality-relevant data and analytics in Nigeria over the past two years, the report noted that jobs do not translate Nigerians’ hard work into an exit from poverty, as most workers are engaged in small-scale household farm and non-farm enterprises; with just 17 percent of the working populace holding the wage jobs best able to lift people out of poverty.
Drawing primarily on the 2018/19 Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS), the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS) implemented by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the World Bank, the report noted that climate and conflict shocks which “disproportionately” affect Nigeria’s poor are multiplying, and their effects have been compounded by COVID-19, while government support for households is scant.
The international financial institution observed that households have adopted dangerous coping strategies, including reducing education and scaling back food consumption, which could have negative long-run consequences for their human capital.
To raise Nigerians out of poverty and sustain economic growth, the report recommended at least three types of deep, long-term reforms including;
Macroeconomic reforms which encompasses fiscal, trade, and exchange rate policies.
Sustainable policies to boost the productivity of farm and non-farm household enterprises.
Improving access to electricity, water, and sanitation while bolstering information and communication technologies.
The report stated that the recommended reforms if implemented simultaneously could help diversify the economy, invigorate structural transformation, create good, productive jobs, and support social protection programmes, as well as other redistributive government policies.
The World Bank emphasised that the reforms are urgent as Nigeria’s population continues to grow, noting that now is the time to ensure that the country seizes the promise of its young people for economic prosperity. It added that shaping the specifics of Nigeria’s poverty-reducing policies will depend strongly on redoubling efforts to gather and analyse data regularly.
“By investing in data, Nigeria can build trust, accountability, and transparency, taking substantial strides on its pathway to poverty reduction,” the report added.
Commenting on the report, Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank country director for Nigeria, said it is clear that much needs to be done to help lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty, including boosting health and education, bolstering productive jobs, and expanding social protection.
Chaudhuri added that implementing pro-poor initiatives requires unlocking fiscal space; reforming expensive subsidies including fuel subsidies will be essential, alongside countervailing measures to protect the poor as reforms are effected.
Tara Vishwanath, World Bank lead economist and co-author of the report, remarked that conflict is spreading and intensifying across Nigeria.
Vishwanath also opined that it is important to implement simple and flexible programmes to support poor and vulnerable Nigerians, while also limiting the risk of exacerbating fragility and conflict.
On his part, Jonathan Lain, World Bank economist and co-author of the report, said data can provide vital guidance on how to design, monitor, and evaluate pro-poor projects and programmes, giving a voice to poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
According to the World bank, new official household survey data, due to be collected later in 2022, will provide far more detailed insights into the dynamics of and the key constraints on poverty reduction, as well as new pro-poor policies.