Moving Towards A Welfare State
One of the obstacles which the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had to overcome was the fact that there was no success module to replicate from independence, through the military regime to the new democratic dispensation (aka Fourth Republic). She had to devise new ways and means such as Treasury Single Account, blocked financial wastages etc. No one was left in doubt that dealing with huge unemployment was top in her mind; so youth, women, unemployment and poverty were to be tackled frontally.
The traditional institutions for human capital development like National Directorate for Employment (NDE), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), various Federal and State employment programmes through agriculture, skills acquisition etc were hardly efficient. These structures had to be adequate as well as efficient to serve as platform for dispensing funds for palliatives and extending skills acquisition and employment programmes. It was this required level and efficiency on entrepreneurship that enabled Delta State for instance to maintain first position among 36 states for three consecutive years.
The imperative of United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) added impetus to the national efforts to improve and stabilize traditional institutions. These efforts contributed to employment creation.
The enactment and implementation of Nigerian Local Content Act of 2010 was reported to have produced about 300,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The former Minister was quoted to have said that between 2012 and 2014 when the economy was rebased Nigerian economy hitherto thought to be a weakling created over 2.8million jobs that could be verified. She was advancing towards Indian example where most of the jobs come from private sector giving impetus to the creation of the Ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Her successor, Mrs Kemi Adeosun who is equally seasoned and dogged has embraced a conservative path even though she would not be coordinating the economy perhaps because of the hard time devised new ways and means to tackle the unemployment and dwindling revenue.
Juxtapose this position with the campaign promises of paying N5000 to every unemployed individual. One wonders how feasible these proposals will be in the face of national currency falling to N380.00 to the dollar.
Before 2015 election All Progressive Congress (APC) conducted a nation - wide survey interviewed about 21,000 persons on 95 issues. The result showed that job creation was utmost in the hierarchy of needs (Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs). Consequently, APC’s manifesto was drafted to reflect that result so as to provide at least 20,000 jobs in every state by APC government; and perhaps that equation supposed that all states will be governed by APC government, however, the reality is different today.
Besides it was recognized that other classes of society who may not benefit from employment programme have to be addressed in some other forms. APC therefore resolved that N25,000 monthly allowance should be paid to these less-privileged persons to alleviate their sufferings.
Perhaps due to the grim state of the economy N25,000 monthly allowance now seems unrealistic. Therefore according to PMB administration payment of a welfare grant of N5,000 will commence soon after the passage of 2016 budget by the legislature. The N5billion set aside will be the first of its kind in Nigeria suggesting welfare state practiced in advanced countries. It would also be a unique exercise where Malinda/Gate Foundation as well as the World Bank would be offering assistances in order to ensure a smooth and efficient implementation of the scheme.
One of the challenges expected from this exercise is lack of database as well as the category of beneficiaries. Unless it is a one–off exercise the dearth of statistical data is bound to challenge or stall the process because only an estimate shows that 1.8 million youths, majority of who are graduates enter the labour market annually. It is the minister that would say how prepared she is to handle it.
Barr. Iyke Ozemena
Ikechukwu Odoemelam & Co.