BeyondtheBeat CHIKA AMANZE-NWACHUKU Tel: 08033294157, 08057161321 Email: email@example.com
Infrastructure is the bedrock of the economy. A well-developed infrastructure is not only essential for attracting foreign investment, it is vital for long-term growth and competitiveness of countries worldwide.
Robust infrastructure helps to determine one country’s success and another’s failure in diversifying production, expanding trade, coping with population growth, reducing poverty or improving environmental conditions. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report (1994), 1percent increase in the stock of infrastructure is associated with a 1percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) across all countries.
The poor infrastructural situation of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, without a doubt, has very severe effect on peoples’ lives. The perennial electricity shortages, housing problems, lack of proper water and sanitation infrastructure are making Nigerian states unlivable.
Similarly, infrastructure inadequacies, as well as inefficiencies in transport logistics such as roads, ports and rail transport are major hindrances to economic development. In fact, the deplorable state of Nigerian roads can best be described as national shame and the infrastructure that supports inland waterways that help transport goods to different parts of the country are lacking.
Also, the health and education sectors are poorly funded; public schools are not getting the needed maintenance funding, eliciting concerns that huge funds allocated to these sectors in the annual budgets were diverted into private pockets.
The rising population to an alarming level, above 180 million is adding to the strain and demands on the country’s infrastructure as well as the urgency to address the problems. With rapid population amid weak economy, low growth, food insecurity and unemployment, building and maintaining quality infrastructure is very vital to meeting demand from Nigeria’s growing population.
In virtually all the states of Nigeria, there is no efficient waste collection system and no controlled landfill sites. Most Nigerians are even unmindful of the relationship between ways of disposing off waste and the resulting environment and health hazards. Lack of long term plans and counter-productive policies are also making things worse.
The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s 2016-17 global competitiveness index ranked Nigeria’s infrastructure low (132 out of 138 countries), and poor infrastructure was identified in its 2016 Executive Opinion Survey, as one of the biggest constraints on doing business in Nigeria.
Therefore, fixing Nigeria’s infrastructure problems, could attract more foreign direct investments, create millions of jobs; curb crime rate and boost tourism. Besides, robust infrastructure can provide a boost to many sectors, including steel, cement, auto, and real estate, leading to rapid economic growth and sustainable development.
Another key benefit of adequate infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure, is the reduction of transport costs, which helps to create new markets, fosters competition, spurs innovation, lowers prices, raises productivity and in turn leads to increase in living standards.
The administration of Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power in 2015, had emphatically stated that its focus would be on infrastructure; but more than three years down the line and despite the huge allocations for infrastructure financing, the situation has gone from bad to worse. From crumbling roads and bridges, which have resulted in loss of many lives and properties to persistent electricity shortages, to dilapidated public schools and health centres/hospitals, water, transport and maritime, there is little or nothing to show for the huge funds allocated to these sectors.
A large part of the N9.12 trillion budget for 2018, signed on June 20 by President Buhari was allocated to infrastructure; a whopping sum of N1.6 trillion, which his administration described “as a rare feat in Nigeria’s economic history.”
The initial N8.61trillion budget was raised to N9.12 trillion by the National Assembly.
A breakdown of the budget estimates showed that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had the highest allocation with N715 billion for both recurrent and capital expenditure, Ministry of Interior got N577 billion, while Ministry of Education was allocated N542 billion. Also, Ministry of Health was allocated N356 billion, Transportation, N267 billion and Ministry of Water Resources, N155 billion.
Minister of Bugdet and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, while briefing journalists then on some of the projects to be carried out in the year stated that infrastructure, security and human development were the focus of the government.
Specifically, he said N530.8 million would be used in constructing the terminal building at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, and N8.32 billion for the construction of the second runway of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Furthermore, he said that N162.28 billion was set aside as counterpart funding for railway projects, while N9.4 billion was earmarked for the Mambilla hydro-power project.
Udoma also revealed that N344 billion was for the construction and rehabilitation of several roads nationwide and N26.7 billion allocated to National Housing Programme.
The health sector was allocated N55.15 billion for the implementation of the National Health Act, while N300 million was for health emergencies and contagious diseases outbreaks.
The jumbo infrastructure allocations was commendable because physical and social infrastructure are critical for a nation to function well, but many Nigerians were not thrilled at the report because in most cases, that is all you see at the end of the day.
Year in, year out, successive governments allocate colossal amount of money for infrastructure financing, but these funds are often diverted into private pockets or/and utilised on frivolous projects to serve political interests.
At the 2018 edition of the Annual IPI Conference in Abuja, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun had reaffirmed that the Buhari government was committed to infrastructure development.
Adeosun said since the present administration came into power in 2015, its focus was on infrastructure as it recognised the fact that “the only way we can really grow, develop and improve the cost of living or standard of living of our people, was to have an effective infrastructure”.
She noted: “No country has been able to develop without infrastructure and it’s almost amazing that we’ve been able to get as far as we’ve gotten without essential infrastructure, without roads, without power, without rail, without housing, without all the enablement that an economy needs to grow.”
According to the minister, that informed why the present administration has continued to make efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
Adeosun had stated that “the N1.6 trillion allocated to infrastructure was a rare feat in Nigeria’s economic history and a confirmation of Buhari government’s commitment to infrastructural development.”
“So one of the things that this government said from the beginning is, we are going to focus very strongly on infrastructure.
“In the budget that just closed, we released close to 1.6 trillion on infrastructure and that has never been done in this country; so our commitment to spending on infrastructure is part of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and it’s imbedded in the budget that was just signed yesterday”.
Adeosun also categorically stated that with the huge allocations, Nigerians will soon begin to clearly see the efforts of the government in terms of projects delivery.
“There’s a huge allocation for infrastructure and I think that in the next few months, you’ll begin to see projects completed because some of these are multiyear projects.
“You will see projects being completed and commissioned and people will see that this government has taken the project from beginning to end and finish things which is very important and we are committed to that.” she asserted.
Two months have passed since the president signed the budget, not much has been witnessed in terms of implementation.
Instead all you read on the pages of newspapers almost on a daily basis is the signing of assorted contracts that will end up as mere paperwork.
The dearth of needed infrastructure has been one of the major factors restricting Nigeria’s economic growth and damaging its investment prospects; therefore government must take aggressive step to address the problem.