Premium Times (Abuja)

11 April 2014

Nigeria Ranks Third Among Countries Having Extremely Poor People, World Bank Says

Nigeria is third among countries with the highest population of extreme poor or people with abject poverty in the world, the World Bank has said.

In its latest report on the world's poverty index, titled 'Prosperity for All - Ending Extreme Poverty', the World Bank listed the top five countries, in terms of numbers of poor, as India (with 33 percent of the world's poor), China (13 percent), Nigeria (7 percent), Bangladesh (6 percent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (5 percent).

The report said the five countries are home to nearly 760 million of the world's poor.

The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, puts the population of Nigerians in poverty at about 112 million, representing about 67 per cent of the country's 167 million population.

Nigeria's recently released per capita GDP stands at $1,555 per annum. South Africa, which is rated the second largest economy in Africa, behind Nigeria, has a per capita GDP of $7,336 per annum.

Last week, the World Bank President, Jim Kim, said that two-thirds of the world's extreme poor are concentrated in these five countries.

Mr. Kim said if five other countries, namely Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, are added, the total number of countries with extreme poverty grows to 80 per cent of global population.

He said a sharp emphasis on these countries would be central to ending extreme poverty in the world.

But, in its latest report released during the ongoing Spring Meetings 2014 on Thursday, the World Bank noted that while economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits.

Governments, the Bank said, need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor by promoting more inclusive growth or conditional and direct cash transfers.

While it was imperative to end extreme poverty, the World Bank said it was even more important to ensure that, in the long run, people do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to lack of opportunities that impede progress toward better livelihoods.

"Economic growth has been vital for reducing extreme poverty and improving the lives of many poor people," Mr. Kim said at the report presentation.

"Even if all countries grow at the same rates as over the past 20 years, and if the income distribution remains unchanged, world poverty will only fall by 10 per cent by 2030, from 17.7 per cent in 2010," the report said

This, the bank chief said, underlined the need to focus on making growth more inclusive and targeting more programmes to assist the poor directly if the drive to end extreme poverty was to succeed.

To end extreme poverty, the World Bank President said the vast population of those with abject poverty - those earning less than $1.25 a day - would have to be cut by 50 million people each year until 2030.

The implication, he said, is that about one million people each week would have to be lifted out of poverty for the next 16 years.

"Growth alone is unlikely to end extreme poverty by 2030," the World Bank President said. "As extreme poverty declines, growth on its own tends to lift fewer people out of poverty.

"This is because, by this stage, many of the people still in extreme poverty live in situations where improving their lives is extremely difficult."

He noted that increased income inequality was capable of dampening the impact of growth on reducing poverty, pointing out that in countries with rising income inequality, the effect of growth on poverty has been dampened or even reversed.

In contrast, he said, research has also revealed that in countries where inequality was falling, the decline in poverty for a given growth rate was greater.

He said the World Bank Group's goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity were closely linked, with lasting progress in ending extreme poverty also requiring continued attention to what was happening to the bottom 40 per cent of the population.

The Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, expressed dismay that despite the picture of a prosperous world, over one billion people live in extreme poverty.

To achieve the objective of ending poverty by 2030, Mr. Basu stressed that the world would require not only determination, but also ideas and innovation, considering the strange ways of the world's economy.

To assist the bottom 40 per cent of the world's population to be lifted out of poverty, he said it was vital to know their characteristics, which differ from country to country.

For instance, in Rwanda, he said, 63 per cent of the population, or the entire bottom 40 per cent and more, live in extreme poverty, while in Colombia, by contrast, 8 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty.

In Turkey, he said extreme poverty has become frictional, as only 1.3 per cent of the population is estimated to be extremely poor by global standards.

In Bangladesh, two-third of the bottom 40 per cent live in rural areas, compared to Brazil, where 23 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent reside in rural areas.

In Rwanda, 11 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent have secondary education, while in Turkey, 55 per cent have attained secondary education.

In terms of employment, 63 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent in the Philippines work in agriculture, while in Jordan, agriculture employs only 11 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent.

Tackling poverty requires understanding where the greatest number of poor live, while at the same time also concentrating on where hardship is most pervasive.

Many smaller countries have far higher shares of their people living below the poverty line, the report said, pointing out that in 16 countries, more than half the population live in extreme poverty.

Of this number, the top five countries, in terms of poverty density, include the Democratic Republic of Congo (where 88 per cent of the population is below the poverty line), Liberia (84 per cent), Burundi and Madagascar (81 per cent each), and Zambia (75 per cent).

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