President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday identified the factors responsible for the high growth figures, rising poverty and unemployment rate recorded in Nigeria.
Buhari offered the explanation while declaring open the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja with the theme, “From Poverty to Prosperity: Making Governance and Institutions Work’’.
Represented by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari said that the summit had proved resilient in promoting dialogue and collaboration between government and the private sector.
Buhari said that absolute poverty, defined as the number of those who could not afford the bare essentials as food, shelter and clothing had been the biggest economic challenge for Nigeria in the past three decades.
The president said that the biggest drain on Nigeria’s resources was grand corruption, which he described as stealing of large sums of the public resource by public officials in collaboration with private individuals
He said that the problem of poverty and the attendant deficits in human development indices were significant because Nigeria’s population continued to grow at about three per cent annually.
Buhari posited that Nigeria would become the world’s third most populous nation by 2050.
According to him, over 60 per cent of the projected population will be young people with about 1.4 million entering the job market yearly.
Buhari, however, explained the paradox of high growth figures amid rising poverty and unemployment figures.
He said: “The first is that high oil revenues do not necessarily translate to jobs.
“The high revenues can only translate to jobs and better living standards if the revenues are invested in diversification of the economy, infrastructure, education, healthcare, and social protection for those who cannot work.
“The question of course is what happens to the revenues? The most important drain on our resources is grand corruption; the stealing of large sums of the public resource by public officials in collaboration with private individuals.
“The second reason that explains the paradox of high growth figures and rising poverty and unemployment figures flows from the first, namely: the poor investment in infrastructure and the non-creation of an enabling environment for business.
“The third is the lack of commitment to diversification of the economy; which would in turn provide multiple streams of revenue; this is both an issue at the National and sub-national levels.
“The fourth reason that explains the paradox of high growth figures and rising poverty and unemployment figures is the low investment over the years in the businesses at the bottom of the pyramid.’’
He said that in addressing the identified challenged, there was a focus on empowering the jobless youth and millions in extreme poverty, by a mix of micro-credit schemes.
According to him, the Federal Government is also focusing on infrastructure support for markets and small business clusters, welfare for the most vulnerable and direct creation of jobs.
Buhari said that his administration was also committing at least 30 per cent of budget on capital, especially infrastructure.
He listed other measures aimed at addressing poverty as diversifying the economy especially agriculture, mining and the promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Others are strong fiscal discipline; especially zero tolerance for grand corruption; support to states for payments of salaries and emoluments; social protection programmes covering at least five million of the poorest.
The president said that most of the measures were captured in details the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
Buhari said: “Generally speaking, we have kept faith with these objectives; by putting in place stricter regime of fiscal discipline, we provided for 30 per cent capital expenditure from 2016 in spite of earning 60 per cent less.
“We invested so far a total of N2.7trillon in capital spending; the highest ever in the history of the country.
“This covers investments in rail, roads, power and dams.
“In diversifying the economy, Agriculture has been a major success story with increasing budgetary allocation to Agriculture from N8.8 billion in 2015 to N46.2 billion in 2016 and N103.8 billion in 2017.’’
Later, while fielding questions from Ngaire Woods, the Founding Dean, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, who moderated the plenary, the nation’s leader said that one major obstacle to fighting corruption in Nigeria was that “nobody wants to rock the boat’’.
He said also that most times, political, religious and business leaders pleaded for corrupt people.
He further expressed regret that the international community did not give enough support and cooperation in Nigeria’s quest to repatriate looted funds.