Social Safety Nets: FG, W’Bank Differ on Spending in Nigeria

  • Ahmed: Social sector budget increased to N1.24 trillion in 2019

James Emejo in Abuja

The federal government and the World Bank have differed on the spending on social safety net in Nigeria.

The bank has advised the federal government to increase its budget for social safety net programme in order to have significant impact on poverty alleviation.

According to the bank, the social investments have become a core part of the social contract in Africa, the bank stressed that the country’s current investment in social safety nets stood at only about 0.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), adding that this was well below the regional average of 1.06 per cent of GDP.

The bank, specifically noted that financing of social protection programmes in the country had remained a challenge as government has mainly relied on funding support from development partners to implement the scheme.

Speaking at the launch of the Africa Social Safety Nets Report which took place over the weekend in Abuja, representative of the Bretton Woods institution, Iffath Sharif in her report presentation titled:”Realising the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa”, noted that despite the current efforts, the poverty numbers were on the increase.

She said it is critically important that financing is predictable, long-term and sustainable going forward.

However, responding to the concerns raised by the World Bank over funding constraints for the social protection scheme, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed disclosed that the federal government’s  budget for the social sector including health, education, youths and sports increased drastically from N814 million in 2015 to N1.24 trillion in 2019.

She said this was in addition to the special intervention programmes allocation of N500 billion.

The minister, who launched the World Bank report, however differed with the bank on the funding status of its social investment programmes, arguing that the publication failed to take account of some government’s intervention efforts aimed at poverty reduction.

Ahmed said: “Future reports in respect of Nigeria should take into account the complete remit of what we do in terms of social safety. It is not just the social investment programmes that is the social programmes in this country, we have always had pensions, we have always had health insurance, we have always had disability insurance programmes and several other programmes that other countries put together and highlight.”

She said: “So, we have to find a way to scan the Nigerian environment of what governments are doing at both the federal and state and local governments to be able to make an assessment.

“I am sure if you do that, you will discover the contribution of social safety net in our programme is beyond 0.3 per cent of the GDP that has been reported today.”

The minister further reiterated the federal government’s commitment to providing a safety net for all its citizens, adding that the report speaks directly to the role of social safety nets in human development, their impact on equity, resilience and opportunity for those at the bottom rung of society’s economic and development ladder.

She said the most effective programmes are those designed with clear-cut framework for evaluation and accountability.

“It is my hope that with today’s launch of the Social Safety Nets Africa Report, we are armed with new knowledge and tools, to identify new opportunities, but most importantly, adopt all that is necessary to sustain quality service delivery to those whose welfare we have a duty to cater to.”

Among other things, she said the present administration had established the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) in 2016, to tackle poverty and hunger across the country.

According to her: “NSIP represents a paradigm shift from past approaches, with a cluster of programmes aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women. It also adopts the life cycle approach that ensures no age bracket is excluded.”