Daily Trust (Abuja)

18 April 2014

Nigeria: Beneficiaries of Nigeria's Rebased GDP

Despite the unmistakable inconsistency between most of the so-called positive economic growth figures in Nigeria and the reality on the ground, government's growing obsession with the generation, or rather falsification, of such figures is growing even at the expense of real and sustainable development. This is because while it takes virtually no effort to fabricate such figures, it takes honesty, leadership skills and political will to achieve real and sustainable growth.

The recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rebasing, which increased the size of Nigeria's economy by almost ninety percent at once, made it the largest in Africa and the 26th in the world, followed many other so-called positive economic growth figures which have indicated that the country has been achieving impressive and steady economic growth over the past several years. Interestingly, economically speaking, the size of a country's GDP doesn't necessarily determine the actual quality of its people's standard of living, especially if it (i.e. GDP) is considered in isolation from other relevant economic factors.

Also, the accuracy and credibility of figures generated and released by a country depend on the amount of efficiency and transparency that define its bureaucratic system. Certainly, Nigeria where corruption, opacity and mediocrity characterize the bureaucracy doesn't have a moral right, in the first place, to ascribe any accuracy to the figures it generates.

For instance, figures as essential as the country's population, individual states' populations, literacy/illiteracy rate, unemployment level, health related statistics, percentages of various ethnic and religious groups in the country and even the exact amount of crude oil officially or unofficially produced and lifted etc. remain debatable in Nigeria.

In any case, whether the GDP rebasing was technically accurate or not, no one can deny that it is simply contradicted by the agonizing reality of abject poverty that ravages communities across the country. In other words, while the country's economy is said to be growing, or rather grows statistically, on one hand, the alarming rate at which ordinary Nigerians go desperately destitute continues to get worse, on the other.

After all, if not for procedural purposes necessarily required in policy-making process and implementation mechanism, it would not require any figures to realize that the rosy picture painted by such "positive" figures with regards to Nigeria's economy contradicts, or least underestimates the extent of the excruciating misery to which the vast majority of Nigerians have been subjected.

Moreover, by celebrating and flaunting these so-called rebased GDP figures or any other similar empty figures amid this unbearable economic condition, Nigerian leaders have proved how unapologetically insensitive they are, and indeed how contemptuous they are, to the sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians. Yet, Nigerians are not that naïve to attach any value to those rebased figures anyway. Nigerian leaders may always come up with more "positive" figures in many more sectors like education, health, employment, security, and may even go the extent of statistically comparing Nigeria with Norway, for instance, if they so wish, yet it won't make any difference to the long-suffering ordinary Nigerians.

Besides, ordinary Nigerians have been greatly disappointed over the decades, and have indeed suffered enough to realize the fact that, even if the economy has actually grown that big, the real benefits will always circulate among the extremely few privileged at the expense of the overwhelming majority of hardworking Nigerians, due to the lopsided equation of wealth circulation created by the prevailing culture of nepotism in the land. This is very obvious in view of the rate at which the rich get superfluously richer while the poor get desperately poorer.

Also, even the much-talked-about emergence of the so-called rich middle class Nigerians, which government and its apologists often cite as a sign of a sustained economic growth, is not in reality a sign of a balanced economic growth. Because contrary to what is obtained elsewhere where middle class are largely well-paid hardworking professionals who can afford a reasonable level of luxury lifestyle within their legitimate incomes, the so-called rich middle class in Nigeria are mostly corrupt serving or retired government or private sector employees who have immensely and illegally benefited from corrupt practices, or devious contractors and fraudulent businessmen fronting for the thieving elites, and facilitating the process of laundering their ill-gotten wealth.

Furthermore thanks to this rebasing exercise, and even against the backdrop of the absence of commensurate and balanced real economic development in the country, Nigeria may still be qualified to access some facilities, avail of some opportunities and gain some privileges in international economic transactions particularly as they relate to foreign investment. However, the actual benefit would always remain confined among the above-mentioned privileged few and their so-called middle class cronies, while the ordinary Nigerians continue to toil in vain and wallow in degrading poverty.

Nigeria could be likened to a lazy and hopeless escapist who, instead of being courageous, diligent and creative enough to confront and solve his self-inflected predicaments, chooses to waste his time in brewing an intoxicating concoction to take and get immersed in a momentary fantasy that gives him a false sense of success while his predicaments continue to accumulate.

It is very unfortunate that, while other countries vigorously pursue and achieve tangible results in economic growth and socio-political stability, Nigeria prefers to live in self-deception pretending that all is well, or at least, it is not that bad, and that things are getting better in light of some obviously fabricated indices.

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