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‘It’s a miracle that Nigerians are still surviving’

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Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country, ranked as the sixth most miserable country in the world. This explains how the average Nigerian is doing economically. Present ranking reflects Nigeria’s current rising unemployment rate, population rising faster than economic growth rate, insecurity etc.

For the second year in a row, the country maintained the same position in the ‘Misery Index,’ an annual list compiled by Steve Hanke, an economist from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States.

The list combines data about a country’s inflation rate, interest rates, and unemployment. Hanke stated that unemployment was the major cause of Nigeria’s ranking.

Opeyemi Agbaje, CEO, RTC Advisory Services Limited in his opinion attributed the country’s misery to its social indices such as poverty, unemployment, insecurity, traffic congestion, the poor state of housing and poor transport network.

“If you look at these indices, it is a miracle that our people are still surviving given all that they have to go through,” Agbaje explained.

“The state of urban insecurity, violence, police brutality, extortion, insecurity, crime, also the state of social, standard of living and peace of mind is very bad,” Agbaje further said.

The unemployment rate in Nigeria has been on an increase since 2015. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rose to 23.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 7.5 percent in Q1 2015.

With over an estimated population of 190 million, over 20.9 million are without jobs.

Anuoluwapo Adeseun, a digital marketer, asked rhetorically, “Why will we not be miserable?

“It is like we are our own government here. We pay for the social amenities e.g. electricity, fuel, security, in fact, almost everything that the government should be helping us out with,” Adeseun complained.

As if the ranking by Hanke was not bad enough, a 2019 Global Report on Food Crisis by the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) stated that Nigeria especially the northern part was amongst the top eight countries that faced acute hunger or food crisis in the world in 2018.

It further predicted that the country will continue to experience food crisis in 2019.

Nigeria’s ranking on hunger also coincides with the world poverty clock by Vienna-based World Data Lab which placed the country as the poverty capital of the world with over 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty in 2018.

Also, Nigeria was ranked one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and more unsafe than war-torn Libya, according to the 2018 Global Law and Order Report by the Gallup Poll.

“It is a miracle that Nigerians are still in this miserable state as it can lead to suicide,” Agbaje said.

In 2018, the World Health Organisation published a research that ranked suicide per 100,000 people, per country. Nigeria placed fifth with 15,000 suicides in every 100,000 suicides.

NOIPolls Limited, Nigeria’s leading public opinion polling and research organisation, conducted a poll through Nigerians last year to find out the major causes of death. From the poll, it identified that poverty was the second major cause of death.

According to Hanke, the human condition inhabits a vast continuum between “miserable” and “happy and the most surefire way to mitigate that misery is economic growth.

“All else equal, happiness tends to blossom when growth is strong, inflation and interest rates are low, and jobs are plentiful,” Hanke further said.

Before the country experienced recession in 2016, its GDP growth rate was growing at 7.9 percent in 2010. The major drivers or contributors were Agriculture, Building and construction, trade and services

But when recession hit the country in 2016 due to a development triggered by dwindling government revenue occasioned by the fall in oil prices in the international market and unrest in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, it affected economic activities and productivity in the country.

It exited recession in 2017 which grew at 0.83 percent due to the recovery in global oil prices, but since then growth has been sluggish. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the economy grew by 1.98 percent in 2018.

Despite recovery from recession, the fragile growth in the economy has failed to improve the purchasing power in the economy.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria’s per capita income data indicates a rise from $2,365 in 2010 to $2,582 in 2011 and a further rise to $3,268 in 2014.

It shed to $2,763 in 2015. By 2017, Nigeria’s income per capita fell by 10.7 percent to $1,994, from $2,207 recorded in 2016.

But Inflation commonly known as consumer price index has moderated to 11.44 percent in December 2018 from 15.1 percent in January.

The country’s lending rate which is officially known as the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) remained unchanged at 14 percent since July 2016 and this is considered high. But last month, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), cut the rate by 50 basis points to 13.5 percent.

 “The reason is not farfetched; it stills boils down to the fact that the pace of recovery since we entered recession in 2016 has been very much low and that is why we have not seen the impact in the real sectors of the economy,” Gbolahan Ologunro, an equity research analyst at Lagos-based CSL Stockbrokers, said.

Venezuela was top on the list of the misery ranking due to the economic woes which have plagued the country for years. Sluggish oil prices, the country’s only significant export, have fuelled a crisis that has left grocery store shelves empty, hospitals without basic medication and rampant violent crime as desperation leads to anger.

Thailand emerged as the least miserable; thanks to its low inflation and low unemployment.

Economic experts have suggested ways that can help reduce the country’s misery and make it amongst the happiest in the world.

“It all boils down to the Nigeria government getting radical about the state of the economy by embarking on the right policies and reforms to increase production, employment and reduce poverty,” Agbaje said.

Ayodeji Ebo, MD, Afrinvest Securities Limited, suggested that the Petroleum Industry Governance bill be passed and more efforts towards attracting private investments through the review of the Public Private Partnership Act that guarantees enforcement of contract should be enforced.

Earlier last week, President Muhammadu Buhari through his Media Group (BMO) said that the country’s misery ranking is not a true reflection of the situation in the country.

“The rating did not take into account recent innovation introduced by the Buhari-led Federal Government before arriving at their position,” the group said.

 

BUNMI BAILEY

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