What are the measurements for progress in a nation? Clearly every student told to mark his own essay will cheat somehow. President Jonathan challenged his opponents when he said in his speech recently that those that seek to mark his government’s performance should present their marking scheme. Well, I have decided to respond to his challenge. But rather than devise a new marking scheme that can be questioned; I decided to use a reputable, globally acknowledged scheme that also provide comparative analysis with other countries in Africa and beyond. Nigeria Finance minister at the same event organized to mark the midway in the administration spouted out several statistics and data; that is far from representing the realities of most Nigerians. The progress of any nation is beyond just GDP growth and national success and prosperity is about more than just fancy figures. The question is, how do ordinary Nigerians feel about their personal wellbeing and economic standing?
To capture my sentiment exactly; let me allow a progressive African leader to speak. Dr Joyce Banda , President Republic of Malawi said recently as follows:
“As for me, growth is not merely about GDP growth. Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all. Growth is about growing and improving access to education for our children, and creating jobs for our youths. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital. As women leaders, we should not allow children to suffer from malnutrion. We should refuse to allow our children to learn under trees rather than proper classrooms. We should refuse to allow mothers to die while giving birth because the nearest health centre is far away .Whenever these challenges are prevalent, our economies cannot meaningfully achieve the sustainable economic growth we all aspire for”.
I could not have said it any better. So the marking scheme I will use to score the Jonathan administration is the recognized measure used by the OECD and other global outfits called The Prosperity Index (developed by the Legatum Institute). This is the only global measurement of national success based on both income and wellbeing. Their econometric analysis has identified 89 variables, which are spread across eight sub-indices. By measuring prosperity holistically they are able to identify and analyse the specific factors that contribute to the success of a country beyond just GDP statistics or other banal statistical measure that does not impact on the true economic realities of a nation’s citizenry. These Eight Prosperity indices are: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Governance, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.
According to the Institute’s survey of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria; the raw GDP statistics masks major weaknesses in indices of national prosperity and economic wellbeing. In its report last year it noted that economically, Nigeria paints a mixed picture. GDP growth is recorded at an impressive 7.9%, however a high inflation rate of over 7%, high levels of unemployment, and poor internal infrastructure stifle long-term, sustained growth it said. Nigeria it stated has significant oil reserves but its reliance on revenue from oil has been described as “damaging”, while the risks of relying on oil reserves as a one-pronged economic strategy is well documented across Africa. They concluded that “Factoring in the current instability of the global economy as a whole, we may reasonably conclude that a diversified, entrepreneur-led economy is crucial to Nigeria’s long term success and stability”.
The Legatum Institute produced last year its annual National Prosperity Index for 142 countries in the world. Nigeria ranked a dreadful 123 out of 142 countries in 2012, that is a relegation from our already bad rank of 104 in 2011 and 106 in 2010. That means by an holistic measure of national prosperity and wellbeing as measured globally; Nigeria has slipped backwards and performed worse between 2010 and 2012. South Africa was ranked 74, Tunisia 78, Namibia 83, Ghana 87, even Mali was did better than us at 104.
Looking behind the overall poor ranking of Nigeria; we performed worst between 2010 and 2012 in the following indices: Economy (drop of 31 point), Safety & Security (27 point drop) and Education (17 point drop). We however improved in Personal Freedom (gain of 10points) and Social Capital (gain of 3points) measures.
So while I praise the Jonathan government for some of its high level macro economic achievements; attention now needs to be paid to the wellbeing of Nigerians in a holistic way. It is a known economic fact that there are more business opportunities in any economy than job opportunities. The engine for growth in Nigeria therefore will not be just more jobs for the unemployed (although that is needed by many) but an entrepreneurial explosion. Government should encourage and promote new businesses and our universities should emphasize entrepreneurship more rather than the current focus on getting a degree and going to apply for jobs that are not always available.
There exists today a multitude of objective data about entrepreneurship in Nigeria. For example, the Index report states that the average time it takes to start a business in Nigeria (31 days), the total tax rates, as a percentage of commercial profits, faced by Nigerian entrepreneurs is 32.2%. The growth of any economy is based on the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises. A concerted and unified strategy is needed to make a success of this vision. So rather than trumpeting pure statistics that means little to average Nigerians, the government should put more effort in productive activities and strategy that impacts on the day to day living of the people. Of the eight indices measured, Nigeria improved in only two of them under this government. Given that we have slipped backward in six of the Prosperity Index in two years since the President was elected; I will give him a presidential performance score of 25%. So Student number 001, Goodluck Jonathan, if you repeat this core by the end of the school term; you will be expelled for poor performance. So work harder and improve on your score. That is the conclusion of the Headteacher.