Report advocates Nigerian growth with equity

Nigeria’s more than 140mn people will be better-off if the six per cent average growth of the economy is matched with more productive and stable jobs and a more equitable distribution of income.

This theme is the core message of the 2008-2009 National Human Development Report launched in Abuja, on 7 December 2009.
Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Nigeria’s Minister of National Planning who launched the UNDP commissioned report, agreed with the theme, Achieving Growth with Equity. He said, “The choice of the theme was considered very appropriate, as it is in consonance with the policy of Government of achieving growth and development as a panacea to sustainable poverty reduction and high standard of living in the country.”
He said that Nigeria aspires to be among the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020. “This can only be done by reducing poverty and unemployment through concrete measures, policies and the involvement of all stakeholders. To this end, the report pays particular attention to strategic approaches to employment generation using both sector specific and macro-based strategies,” the Minister added.
UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Mr. Turhan Saleh said, “The NHDR breaks some new ground by generating State and zonal level data on the human development index (HDI), poverty, inequality and a proxy measure of State gross domestic product (GDP) through what can be described as an index of economic activity. These are all firsts in Nigeria! And, as it happens, a lot of the data and analysis validates and reinforces the arguments that have been put forward courageously in the National Vision 20:2020 document.”
He was particularly happy that the report is a strictly home grown product, developed, written, reviewed and revised by Nigerian experts. Data was supplied by the work of the National Bureau of Statistics, and an Advisory Board composed of senior Government officials, civil society, the private sector, independent experts and UNDP provided guidance. “We are deeply grateful to these institutions and individuals for their enthusiasm, commitment and hard work without which this report could not have been written,” Mr. Saleh said.
Former Economic Adviser to the President and Minister of National Planning, and a member of the advisory council on the NHDR, Prof. Ode Ojowu, shed light on the highlights of the Report. He revealed that inequity in Nigeria was one of the highest in the world with the top 20 per cent of the population controlling 65 per cent of national assets. Although there has been significant growth in recent years with per capita income crossing the $1,000 mark in 2006, there is still prevalence of extreme poverty, with agriculture, the driver of growth accounting for about 7 out of 10 poor.

Communicating growth strategies
The National Human Development Nigeria 2008-2009 sends out five clear messages.
The first one is about avoiding the trap of focusing on economic growth as an end in itself. The Report argues that growth is not an end in itself but a means to improved human development – better health and education, longer and more productive lives, higher incomes, and more opportunities for people, especially the poor and marginalized, to engage fully in the life of their communities and country.
The second key message is that a narrow focus on economic growth will diminish Nigeria’s prospects of achieving key aspects of National Vision 20:2020 and the MDGs. This is because a narrow focus on economic growth will fail to tap the potential of the majority of Nigerian men and women who are poor today but can be highly productive citizens in the future.
The third message is that, going forward, the best development strategy and associated policy choices will be about promoting growth with equity. Growth with equity is a simple but powerful idea which aims to set in motion a virtuous cycle of development. As the population gets healthier, more educated and skilled - and begins to have access to other inputs such as credit, technology and equipment as well as markets - productivity increases; as productivity increases, the economy grows; and as the economy grows, more resources become available to invest more in people, infrastructure and other inputs for development, thus, promoting further economic expansion and making its benefits available to more people, especially the poor.
A fourth message is that the growth with equity approach is not anti-growth: the approach simply says that a ‘growth first and then let us worry about equity later’ strategy poses a false choice and holds back human development.
A final message that comes through strongly in the NHDR is that there is a common sense agenda of policies and actions to pursue growth with equity and achieve Vision 20:2020 and the MDGs.
The report identified a key challenge among others, and one that the best performing emerging economies have been able to address – the need to maintain discipline, consistency and continuity in the setting of priorities and policies over a sufficiently long period of time to secure an irreversible momentum towards growth with equity.
The launch was graced by top government officials including the Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Hajia Amina Az-Zubair, who gave a goodwill message, the Director General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu, several ambassadors and members of the diplomatic and development community, civil society and the general public.

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