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Nigeria's growth rate insufficient to eradicate poverty -W'Bank

By The Citizen
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Nigeria still has a long way to go as her growth rate of eight per cent is not capable of reducing poverty in a way that will match the target set by the Federal Government, the Vice-President for Africa, World Bank, Mr. Makhtar Diop, has said.

Diop said this in Abuja at a press briefing on Tuesday shortly after holding a closed-door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan as part of the activities lined up for his two-day visit to Nigeria.

The former Senegalese Minister of Finance was visiting Nigeria to appraise the bank's activities.

Answering questions from journalists, Diop regretted that although Nigeria's growth rate was high, the effect could not be felt by a majority of the populace.

'The growth is at eight per cent. Is it sufficient? No. Is it capable of reducing poverty to the level government wants? No. Is it capable of accelerating poverty reduction? Yes,' he said.

The country's target is to reduce poverty by 21.4 per cent by 2015.

The World Bank vice-president said diversification of the economy held the key to ensuring that majority of the populace enjoyed the growth being recorded by the country.

Diop said working and looking more closely at the agricultural sector was capable of accelerating job creation, which could affect the majority of the people.

'We need to make growth more inclusive,' he added.

Diop, who said the World Bank's contribution to the nation's budget was only about two per cent, added that its most important contribution to the growth of the Nigerian economy was not finance but knowledge.

'We have an open data policy. Once we get information, we make it available to the government and to the civil society,' he said.

Diop said the economic outlook of the nation for 2013 was promising, adding that there might not be a reversal of the seven per cent growth rate earlier projected by the institution.

On the bank's involvement in the power sector reform, Diop said it was important to exercise some patience and get things right, adding that if the legal framework was not right, the process could end in series of litigation.

He had earlier said the World Bank had set up a task force saddled with the responsibility of supporting the ongoing power sector reform in the country.

Diop said the bank's decision to support power reform in the country was borne out of its desire to see a quick end to power outages.

He said, 'We spoke on the issue of the power sector, which obviously has been on the mind of everybody in Nigeria. We decided at the World Bank to put up a task force, which will include private sector branch to support the reform.

'It is good that the reform is really making progress. I was with the main players of the power sector today (Tuesday), and they were all happy with the reform process so far.

'We are discussing about benchmark and timelines to really make sure that the reform is implemented timely and make the issue of outage in Nigeria a thing of the past or history in the near future.'

Diop commended the government's effort at reviving the economy; saying at the time when the global economy was going down, Nigeria was keeping a growth rate that was significant.

He said he was at the Villa to listen to the President's priority and discuss other issues such as how poverty had been evolving in the country and what could be done to accelerate its reduction.

He said the bank's recent work had shown a slight reduction in poverty level in the country.

Diop said, 'Our work recently has shown that there is slight reduction in the level of poverty in Nigeria moving from 48 to 46 per cent. The trend is good. It needs to be accelerated obviously.

'What we discussed are the policies that we can put in place to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction in Nigeria. We also talked about regional issues, including the role of Nigeria in the region.

'As you know, Nigeria is an important player economically in the sub-region, and it was important for me as I come here, to hear from Mr. President on how we can collaborate on regional integration and stability in the region; how the development and economic programmes of the World Bank can help the efforts that the political leaders are making to stabilise the region and create situation of peace.'