Vice President Namadi Sambo
Tunde Sanni writes on the 2012 Founder’s Day of the Development Policy Centre (DPC), Ibadan, where experts took governments to task on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the banishment of poverty in the country
Various experts who gathered at the 2012 Founder’s Day of the Development Policy Centre (DPC), Ibadan, Oyo State, have expressed worry concerning the stunted development growth of the nation.
They blamed the current scenario on the failure of successive governments to harness the human and physical potentials of the country, and expressed concern that oil has continued to be heavily relied on to salvage the country from her numerous problems.
Focus on Agriculture
A don from the University of Ibadan, Prof. Tunji Titilola, who spoke at the event, quoted the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
He remarked that despite oil’s revenue dominance, agriculture plays a significant role in the nation’s economy, accounting for 34.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2012.
Titilola stated that sustainable expansion of agriculture should play a key role in unleashing inclusive economic growth, reducing poverty and enhancing food security. According to him, agriculture’s relevance to poverty reduction goes far beyond its direct impact on farmers’ incomes.
He said that there was evidence that increasing agricultural productivity has benefitted millions through higher incomes, more plentiful and cheaper food and by generating patterns of development that are employment-intensive and benefit both rural and urban areas.
The don added that agriculture has provided the spur to economic development outside agriculture where growth and job creation are faster and wage higher.
“Rapid increases in agricultural output, brought about by increasing land and labour productivity, have made food cheaper, benefitting both the urban and the rural poor who spend most of their income on food”, he added.
Titilola, who spoke on some key issues in economic growth and development nexus in Nigeria: Is high GDP enough?, reminded the gathering that majority of poor people live in the rural areas on less than $2 a day and must depend on agriculture.
“Given where they live and what they do, promoting agriculture is imperative for meeting the MDG of halving poverty and hunger by 2015”, the don said.
He admitted that poverty was overwhelmingly a rural problem, pointing out that it was so, while its enduring index was the failure of agriculture to deliver livelihood for the large proportion of the people who depend on it.
Titilola declared that agriculture growth can reduce poverty directly, by raising farm income and indirectly through labour market and by reducing food prices.
“Increased farm productivity increases farm income and participation of small holders in this agricultural growth will obviously benefit them. Agricultural growth also reduces poverty via labor market because agricultural growth is capable of creating employment opportunities for the poor”, he said.
He added that the ability to increase non-traceable staple foods would reduce domestic food prices, especially to the poor, in addition to the urban dwellers, who spend a substantial amount of their income on food.
Agriculture, the don contended, has a special poverty reducing power, pointing out that China, India and Ghana have all had relatively high agricultural growth rates and reduced poverty substantially.
Quoting Development Outreach Vol. 10, no 3 2008, Titilola stated that Ghana’s growth and poverty reduction over the last 15 years was Africa’s success story. He added that real GDP has grown at more than four percent a year since 1980 and at more than five percent since 2001.
He also added that the poverty rate fell from 52 per cent in 1991 to 29 per cent in 2005, making Ghana the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to have already met the MDG goal of halving poverty.
To him, “in Nigeria today, many informed observers are debating the paradox of economic growth not accompanied by economic development”.
Titilola stressed that recent available data from the NBS showed that the nation’s GDP was increasing at an impressive annual growth, pointing out that the nation’s GDP had been growing from 5.4 per cent in 2005 to 7.8 per cent in 2010, but fell to 6.7 per cent in 2011, contending that growth was now driven by the non-oil sector.
According to the don, the showdown in 2011 was a reflection of the worsening global economy and an oil production showdown.
Titilola maintained that despite Nigeria’s rich human and material resources endowment capable of making her Africa’s largest economy and major player at the global level, yet much of the potential has remained untapped.
According to him, factors identified hindering progress include slow economic growth due to weak productive capacity, modernisation of agriculture, low labour and total factor productivity, over dependency on crude oil production, and lack of diversification of the economic base.
Other factors include gross inefficiency of public sector, poor and deteriorating social and economic infrastructural services, high dependence on primary production, heavy debt burden, and low pace of technological advancement.
In his paper, ‘Resolving the problem of economic growth without development: Lessons learned from the implementation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Nigeria’, Dr. Ojetunde Aboyade noted that since the return of democratic rule to Nigeria in 1999, the nation has been experiencing consistent increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of its economy.
He said the paper aimed to identify and explain the causes of economic growth in the country without a commensurate reduction in poverty within the context of MDGs, assess Nigeria’s progress in MDGs attainment since 2000 and proffer practical solutions to move the Goals’ attainment in the country forward.
Citing a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) publication of 2009, Aboyade stated that GDP refers to the financial value of all goods and service produced within the economy in one year, including agriculture, industry, building and construction, wholesale and retail trade, services such as transport, communication, utilities, hotel and restaurant, finance and insurance, real estate and business services, producers of government services, community, social and personnel services.
He stated that the relevance of the MDGs in the international community comes against the backdrop of the ongoing debate in the United Nations about a post-2015 international development framework that the UN is expected to ratify the timeline of the MDGs lapses in 2015.
Aboyade recommended the monitoring and evaluation of government projects at all levels which he described as a pre-requisite for promoting good governance, improved service delivery of projects to enhance societal productivity for poverty reduction.
He hinted that as the government implements monitoring and evaluation and advocacy frameworks to strengthen its participatory governance structures, its focus should be to stimulate the development of social capital in local communities.
It is also expected to build networks of trust and goodwill among the people to facilitate the mobilisation and accumulation of local assets like cash donations, building materials, labour etc to support and augment the development of proposed public facilities in their communities.
Aboyade maintained that governments should strengthen their political will and release data on public funds actually released for all projects budgeted and appropriated for to provide a basis for civil society organisations to track the efficiency with which such funds are being managed to promote transparency and accountability in the management of such projects.
He advocated that service providers of public facilities should ensure that local socio-economic conditions, regarding the cost of raw materials, spare parts, local labour and other factors of project development dictate the cost of developing the projects and spatial variance of similar projects developed in different communities should be reflected in such price database.
The presenter also advanced that governments should re-examine the incentive structure of the economy and initiate reforms to make the cost of manufacturing goods and services significantly cheaper than importing and trading in such goods and services.
According to him, “If successful, the same cabals that are working against the long term interests of the state will likely turn around and begin to make strategic investments to industrialise the country, thereby creating opportunities for job creation and sustainable poverty reduction in the long run.”
Earlier, the matriarch of the Aboyade family, Prof. Bimpe, had set the tone of discussion, lamented that ordinary citizens keep hearing about the fantastic rate of economic growth in the country from experts within and outside the country and that Nigeria is among a few countries in the world with the fastest growing economy, which is far from the reality on ground.