THE HDI REPORT AND NIGERIA'S FUTURE
Breaking news: While the president and other members of his cabinet are still debating the fuel subsidy brouhaha and the hullabaloo of the possible consequences of the subsidy remains on the lips of every scared Nigerians, a breaking news flashed in making the task of our honourable president more Herculean. It is the news of Nigeria's performance in the latest global Human Development Index report.
According to the report released by the United Nations, Nigeria is in the 156th position out 187 countries that were surveyed. This shows a rather poor condition of development in Nigeria even after fifty-one years of nationhood. This is in the absence of the proposed removal of subsidy on petroleum products. By the time the removal is effected, the result will be better imagined than experienced.
For the records, the human development index (HDI) was developed twenty-one years ago, in 1990, by one Mr. Mahbub ul Haq- a Pakistani economist. It is the generally acceptable means of assessing the well-being of nations across the globe. This assessment is based on three criteria: life expectancy which is measured based on longevity of life, literacy level which is measured based on statistics of enrolment in schools and Gross Domestic Income (GDI) which is measured based on the purchasing power after the price differences among countries have been removed.
For those of us that are very conversant with the HDI statistics over the years, we will understand that the result for this year is not so different from previous years since 1990. Last year, Nigeria was 142nd out of 169 surveyed countries making her one of the least developed nations of the world.
Perhaps, a peep through the three categories of the development index can help us to understand how pathetic our situation has become. According to the latest report, on life expectancy, an average Nigerian child is expected to live up to 51.9 years, although this is better than the initial 48 years in 2009 but it is quite disheartening compared to other African countries like Libya and Gabon with the life expectancy of 74 years and 62.5 years respectively. With respect to GNI, while countries like Gabon, Botswana and Equatorial Guinea boast of $12,249, $13,049 and $17,608 per capita income respectively, Nigeria is happily wallowing in the valley of $2,069 per capita income, what a pity! In education, according to a United Nations report, Nigeria and Tanzania currently have the lowest rate of transition from primary to lower secondary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, it is estimated that over 11 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school.
To add insult to injury, away from the Human Development Index report, over 70 per cent of the Nigerian population still live below the poverty line due to gross joblessness arising from poor infrastructure and high level of insecurity that have discouraged foreign investors from coming to Nigeria.
To address these development deficits, there is need for the government to look into the stalled privatisation programme, as a major job creation policy. It is an incontrovertible truth that only a private-sector driven economy can guarantee sustainable job creation and by extension, swift national development.
The gigantic imbalance between recurrent and capital allocation in the budget should also be addressed. Nigeria should never in her wildest dream expect development with just 30 per cent of her national budget for capital projects that will not even meet 40 per cent implementation while 70 per cent goes for recurrent expenditure.
More important is the need to take the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as priority at no later date than the 2015 deadline. The achievement of these MDGs is a singular womb containing all the ingredients that Nigeria needs to become developed.
Meanwhile, Nigeria should tackle the power problem among other infrastructural problems with renewed vigour and develop the agricultural sector of the economy in order to create more jobs, eradicate poverty and usher in a new wave of development.
Oluwatayo writes from Lagos