World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop
Muhammad Bello and James Emejo
The World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, has revealed that the multilateral institution, in conjunction with the Federal Government, are working out modalities, on how to reduce poverty in the country, where a staggering 112.519 million Nigerians are poor according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Diop, whose institution last year stated that it had no reliable data at all about the reality of poverty in the country, however pointed out that a recent study conducted by the bank indicated that the poverty level had receded by two per cent.
According to him, the new level of poverty in the country is now 46 per cent.
He said the bank and the federal government were now poised to tackle poverty in the country.
Diop, who is in Nigeria to understudy its opportunities and challenges, however, applauded the incumbent administration for taking crucial steps to curb the spread of poverty.
“Our work recently has shown that there is slight reduction in the level of poverty in Nigeria moving from 48 to 46 per cent. The trend is good. It needs to be accelerated obviously. What we discussed are the policies that we can put in place to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction in Nigeria,” he added.
He said further: “We also talked about regional issues including the role of Nigeria in the region. As you know, Nigeria is an important player sub region economically, and it was important for me as I come here, to hear from His Excellency on how we can collaborate on regional integration and stability in the region, how the development and economic programmes of the World Bank can help the efforts that the political leaders are making to stabilise the region and create situation of peace.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has reaffirmed his Administration’s commitment to the implementation of all reforms considered necessary for accelerated economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation in Nigeria.
Speaking at a meeting with Diop, the president said that although it was not easy to undertake certain reforms in an intensely political environment, the federal government under his leadership would continue to evolve and implement policies that will assure sustainable development and the long-term well-being of the nation.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, stated that the president acknowledged Diop’s commendation of his administration. The president said that with the continued support of the World Bank, other international institutions and investors the federal government would achieve an even higher growth rate for the national economy.
“We will continue to do our best. We would have had more robust growth by now but for the global economic recession. With your continued support, we will certainly achieve more,” he told Diop.
According to the president, Nigeria would particularly welcome more support for the World Bank for the concluding stages of its power sector reforms especially for the speedy resolution of labour issues and other matters related to the on-going privatisation of the sector.
The World Bank executive added: “We decided at the World Bank to put up a task force which will include private sector branch to support the reform. It is good that the reform is really making progress. I was with the main players of the power sector today, and they were all happy with the reform process so far. And we are discussing about benchmark, and timelines to really make sure that the reform is implemented timely and make the issue of outage in Nigeria a thing of the past or history in the near future.”
In a related development, speaking at a separate press briefing, Diop said Nigeria needed an inclusive growth to better the living condition of her people.
He noted that the diversification of the economy, which would in turn create more jobs was critical to achieving inclusive growth.
The World Bank Vice President further called for key policies that could unlock the huge potentials in agriculture.
He said the bank's major contribution to the country had been in the provision of the relevant knowledge needed to political and economic transformation stressing that its monetary contribution accounted for only 2 per cent of the Federal Government's annual budget.
He said although the country could be said to be on the right track in term of economic policies and development but it needed to fix critical infrastructure including power to be able to attain its target.
He commended the private sector participation in Independent Power Projects (IPPs) and further called for investment in long term projects including improvement in education.
He also hinted that addition IPPs were expected to be signed by the government soon.