• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Honesty and credible data are requisites for fighting poverty

Honesty and credible data are requisites for fighting poverty

There is still ongoing debate among policy makers and social scientists regarding effective ways to assist individuals living in poverty. Over the past six decades, numerous poverty-reduction programs have been implemented, with varying degrees of success in Nigeria.

It’s crucial for us to reflect on the outcomes of these programs and determine what has worked and what hasn’t. But I do not have the luxury of space to explore the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of different anti-poverty initiatives of different governments in Nigeria.

While writing this article, I couldn’t help but think of the wise words of Sun Tzu, the Chinese warrior and philosopher, who famously said in his book “The Art of War”: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” I found it fitting to reference “The Art of War” because its strategic advice is applicable not only to warfare but also to the challenges faced in today’s geopolitical and business environments.

As a Nigerian, I am deeply concerned about the pervasive issue of poverty in our country. While some may argue that insecurity is the most pressing enemy we face, I believe that insecurity and poverty are the most potent enemies of all.

Insecurity and poverty are both significant challenges that can have a profound impact on individuals and communities. It is difficult to compare the two directly as they can often be interconnected and exacerbate each other.

However, it is important to note that poverty can lead to insecurity, as individuals who are struggling to meet their basic needs may be more vulnerable to crime, violence, and other forms of insecurity. Additionally, insecurity can also contribute to poverty by hindering economic development and stability. Ultimately, both insecurity and poverty are complex issues that require comprehensive solutions.

It is therefore, alarming to think that out of a population of approximately 200 million people, 133 million are living in multidimensional poverty, with even more at risk of falling into poverty. We observed that those who are already poor are getting poorer because of rising inflation.

This is a cause for great concern. Many individuals find it incredibly challenging to escape poverty due to the economic circumstances they are trapped in, which do not provide them with the necessary means to break free.

Poverty can be defined in various ways, but generally, it refers to the condition of individuals or families who lack the financial resources and basic necessities required for a decent standard of living. This includes inadequate access to proper housing, healthcare, nutritious food, and clean water. Additionally, poverty often means that individuals who are employed do not earn enough income to meet their basic needs.

I firmly believe that poverty is indeed our greatest adversary. It has devastated the lives of countless individuals both globally and within Nigeria. The question then arises, how can we effectively tackle this issue? Is hope alone enough, or do we need to devise concrete strategies?

Personally, I have always maintained that “Hope is not a strategy.” While hope can serve as a source of motivation, it is not sufficient in combating poverty. To truly address this problem, we must rely on reliable and accurate data. Since we have been talking about financial inclusion, how many of the poor people have bank accounts in Nigeria. With conditional cash transfer, which bank accounts are to be used by the poor and less privileged people to receive cash transfers.

Honesty plays a crucial role in this process. Every country, without exception, can establish a set of guidelines to determine the extent of poverty within its borders. Once the problem has been identified and thoroughly studied, and accurate data has been collected and analyzed, it becomes much easier to propose effective solutions.

Credible data plays a crucial role in the decision-making process, as it provides policymakers with the necessary information to take appropriate actions. With credible data, policymakers can develop targeted responses that address the most pressing issues or root causes of poverty. These responses can be calibrated to have the greatest impact and tailored to meet the specific needs of the population.

Let’s examine the concept of providing monetary palliatives to individuals as a means of addressing poverty. This strategy, whether through empowerment programs or conditional cash transfers to impoverished families, is gaining popularity in our country. It is often accompanied by uplifting stories of individuals who have managed to lift themselves out of poverty by starting small businesses. However, it is crucial to have concrete data on the number of beneficiaries who have successfully escaped poverty through these initiatives. This information will allow us to assess the effectiveness of any poverty-reduction strategy.

However, experts have presented evidence that challenges the notion that loans alone can effectively alleviate poverty. They argue that simply providing loans to the poor does not necessarily lead to increased income for the beneficiaries.

There could be several reasons for this. It is possible that the beneficiaries may not have had the necessary knowledge or skills to effectively utilize the loans for business purposes. Additionally, the amount of the loans may not have been sufficient to stimulate significant growth in their businesses. For example, there are reports suggesting that the monthly N5000 given to poor families by the previous government of General Buhari for a period of 6 months did not significantly improve the lives of the beneficiaries.

At this point, let’s ask ourselves: What constitutes a family? A welter of definitions exist about what constitutes a family. Let’s say that a family typically consists of parents and their children, but it can also include extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The specific makeup of a family can vary depending on cultural, social, and personal factors.

Some families may also include non-blood-related individuals who are considered part of the family through adoption or close relationships. Ultimately, what constitutes a family is subjective and can differ from person to person, and from one country to the other. So, what is the Nigerian definition of a family? Parents and three children?

Or, parents and four children? It’s the Federal Government’s responsibility to tell us the definition of a family. Accordingly, twelve million poor families will be how many Nigerians? This data is very important for any palliative intervention to be successful.

There have been reports indicating that approximately 42.69 million impoverished individuals in Nigeria were not included in the monthly cash transfer program initiated by President Buhari in 2016. To verify the accuracy of this data, one would need to conduct a thorough analysis and evaluation of the sources and methodologies used to gather the information. Additionally, the June 2023 edition of the Nigeria Development Update revealed that the World Bank stated that only around 19.4 percent of Nigerians actually benefited from the program.

To address the previous inquiries, the June 2023 Nigeria Development Update disclosed that even among the individuals included in the program, the benefits provided were not enough to lift households out of poverty. This suggests that the existing database may not be comprehensive enough to accurately determine the number of individuals living in poverty and the amount of assistance required to help them escape it.

Certain analysts argue that cash donations may only offer temporary relief to recipients and can be susceptible to fraudulent activities.

Cash donation can provide immediate relief to the poor by helping them meet their basic needs such as food, shelter, and healthcare. However, it is important to note that cash donations alone may not address the underlying causes of poverty. Sustainable solutions such as education, job opportunities, and social support systems are also necessary to uplift individuals and communities out of poverty in the long term.

In the circumstance we find ourselves in Nigeria where unemployment level is high, if the goal is to genuinely uplift individuals and households out of poverty, vocational skill acquisition emerges as the most effective solution. Skills are essential in various aspects of human life and play a crucial role in realizing the entrepreneurial potential of a society. Skill acquisition benefits all segments of society, particularly the underprivileged.

Read also: 10.41 million Nigerians fall into poverty under APC

Therefore, it is crucial for Nigeria to significantly expand the coverage and social protection programs in order to better equip households to handle economic shocks both now and in the future. Additionally, the government should prioritize transparency by making the database of the poor accessible to the public.

This database should include names, states, local government areas, bank account details and residential addresses. By doing so, Nigerians can verify the authenticity of individuals classified as poor, promoting accountability and transparency.

Since there is no legacy as rich as honesty, it is essential that any form of palliative provided by the government reaches those who truly need assistance. On the part of the government and the citizens who are to receive palliatives there must be no over invoicing, no racketeering and no dishonest behavior. Honesty should be the soul of this endeavor. If not, it will fail woefully. Credible data notwithstanding, we all have a responsibility to ensure the success of any poverty-reduction efforts. Thank you.