Demola Rewaju: Rebase the GDP all you can but we are still poor

by Demola Rewaju

Ngozi_Okonjo-Iweala

All that the announcement did was to make official something we’ve known all along but the way some are going on about it makes it seem as though poverty started under Goodluck Jonathan or that a better government can eradicate poverty. The true role of government is to create an enabling environment for people to prosper and while it is obvious that successive governments in Nigeria have failed to do this totally

I naturally assume most times an opposite position from some specific personalities because having evaluated their values, ideology and principles for a while, I know that we can never be on the same side on matters of government policy. One of such people is Dr. Ope Banwo whom I debated live on CHANNELS TV sometime last year and wrote about it in this article here.

It was Ope Banwo’s interview on Inspiration FM’s Saturday morning programme – Talk Radio – two weeks ago that gave me my first hint that the government was going to announce the rebasing of the Gross Domestic Product which is the total market value of goods and services produced, sold and bought in a country. Ope Banwo actually debated himself for some minutes on the matter as he praised the head of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Yemi Kale but lambasted the government (under which he serves) on the same issue of rebasing a GDP that had not been done in 24 years. He went further to say that it was a bad thing to do because it would lead to the Nigerian market being flooded by Foreign Direct Investment (a good thing if we remove the frames of pessimism).

The GDP growth of Nigeria is not something we are unaware of even for those of us far remove from the opulence of the ruling and elite class. The growth of the telecommunications, manufacturing, oil and gas, music, film production (Nollywood), online sales, airline, real estate, agriculture and information services industry is a revolution that we witnessed in our lifetime even if we do not understand the economics of the whole thing. Take GSM phones for example – almost everybody has one these days (except my friend Dieko Gilbert who weirdly chooses to be tele-immobile) and judging from the crazy income those telecoms guys are making, it is obvious the money is coming from the pockets of Nigerians except the naysayers would claim ghosts are the ones using airtime to make midnight calls. Few years ago under Babangida’s regime, David Mark as Minister for Communications said that NITEL would disconnect the lines of its debtors that they could not claim to be too poor to settle their phone bills as poor people didn’t own telephone lines. Today, telephone lines are no longer a status symbol neither are they an exclusive preserve of the rich.

All that the announcement did was to make official something we’ve known all along but the way some are going on about it makes it seem as though poverty started under Goodluck Jonathan or that a better government can eradicate poverty. The true role of government is to create an enabling environment for people to prosper and while it is obvious that successive governments in Nigeria have failed to do this totally, I would say that many have taken advantage of the enabling environment in some sectors and crossed that great divide between poverty and wealth. The hundreds of youths making a living in just the telecommunications sector is amazing – from those who work directly with telecoms companies and those who work with outsourcing customer care companies on behalf of those telecoms companies, to those who sell or repair GSM telephones and those who sell recharge cards, people are somehow managing to live better lives than they ordinarily might and this is an undeniable fact. If we add to this the numbers of real estate agents, consultants, omo oniles, building artisans, interlocking brickmakers, online property shops etc in the real estate sector, we may form a realistic evaluation of the level of poverty in this land.

The reason people are poor is a deeper issue than laying the blame at the feet of government, no matter how inept, no matter how corrupt it is. Some will always get rich no matter what government does while some will sadly remain poor. Is this then a justification for government failure? By no means! The major reason for government is to protect the poor and the powerless – the rich can protect themselves because they are strong. Government can create opportunities which the smart take advantage of but it cannot do everything.

Government however failed to include one major sector in this GDP thingy – the generator importation or generator manufacturing sector is surely one of our strongest sectors with major generator manufacturers now operating assembly plants all over Nigeria (even Thermocool [the refrigerator makers] now manufactures generator for the Nigerian market. Add to this the number of generator repairer entrepreneurs all over the place, the salesmen, the after-sales maintenance departments etc and you will agree that some are indeed making money out of government’s failure on this electricity matter. Please don’t add the money we spend on fuel (diesel or petrol) and engine oil as that would just show you how rich most of the poor are, how poor most of the rich are and how government’s ineptitude leaves us all poor at the end of the day.

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Demola Rewaju blogs from DemolaRewajuDaily.com

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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