As 29th May approaches and the incoming President and his team strategize on how to actualize their campaign promises to the Nigerian people, it has become expedient that certain issues should be brought to the fore so as to put the new government on the right path of nation-building and social progress.
I believe one issue that is of huge concern to the people right now is that which borders on their actual economic realities in juxtaposition with the economic postulations of government and its agencies, including international agencies. This concept has been seen by some economists as the “great divide” – the disparity/gap between economic growth and economic development.
In the recent past, the government of Nigeria has become overly specialized and focused on empirical economic analysis to the detriment of effective economic development measurement that is felt by its citizens. Without doubt, this funny economic reality seems to be responsible for the apathy that is prevalent in the country’s socio-economic landscape. People in their private thinking cannot reconcile their present standard of living to slogans such as “Nigeria is the richest economy in the sub-sahara Africa” or “the 26th largest economy in the world”. It baffles the mental acumen of these people when they hear such postulations, whereas their lives reflect the direct opposite. By all standard indices (income, health, education, energy, infrastructure, recreation, GDP per capita) available to them, they can hardly reconcile this fantasy with their reality.
There is no doubt that this is the present dilemma of majority of Nigerians and indeed the citizens of the world. For the records, the World Bank estimates that more than 70% of Nigerians live below the poverty line of not less than US$2 per day. In contrast, for the past ten years the economy of Nigeria has experienced economic growth of (7% average), thus registering herself as one of the world’s fastest growing economy by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) standard. This year, the economy is predicted to grow at 4.9% owing to the drop in crude oil price, yet by international standards, this is an enviable mark only to countries like India and China who are to breach the 7% benchmark this year. But the reality here is that these are just mere statistical analysis of economic growth as distinct from economic development. The idea that should be obvious by now is that economic development measurement is what is vital to the average man on the street. Now, this is not to play down the role of economic growth calculations. We have belief in its statistical importance (yes, statistical importance). Unfortunately economists have placed so much premium on it to warrant one to describe the situation as “placing emphasis on the shadow more than the substance.” Thus, they are seen every month or quarterly reeling out statistical figures such as GDP, Per Capital Income, CPI, PPI, RRR, MPR, etc. Unknown to them, these nomenclatures just fly past the head of the people. Then one is prone to ask, albeit angrily:” what is the importance of communication if it is not mutually intelligible?”
I must state here however that development experts and policymakers worldwide have postulated different theories to this dilemma. Hence, we have different indices such as “World Happiness Index”, “Quality of Life Index”, “Economic Freedom Index” etc. Looking at the parameters of measurement of these indices, it becomes clear that these indices are deliberate so as to influence government spending towards areas that have vital impact on the world’s populace. Ironically, however, the question policymakers have consistently asked is: “have these ideas solved the world’s challenges?”
Now, if we narrow this concept to Nigeria (which is the focal point of this piece) we begin to see the need for the government to be deliberate and systematic in its evaluation of the parameters that are vital to the citizens. For example, there is a new index in the world called “Social Progress Index”. The idea is seriously supported by the President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. The Social Progress Index report began in 2014 and takes into consideration the deficiencies in the other developmental indices, thus arriving at a much more practical and relevant three-step parameters that have social impact. While the Social Progress Index did not dismiss the importance of other developmental variables such as GDP, GDP, Per capita, etc, it however recognizes its strength in the fact that government activities can only be more effective and relevant to the people if it is measured in relationship with the social progress of its people and their environment. By extension, it clearly indicates vital areas of social interaction in its analysis of parameters. Thus, areas such as clean energy, water, security, social integrity, health, etc are given standard benchmarks for excellence in each field. We are of the belief that the Social Progress Index is a formidable developmental tool that can be used by any serious and dedicated government. This is because it incorporates other parameters from other indices and new added and socially relevant parameters for nation building and social progress.
In the light of the above, we therefore postulate two keys to bridging the gap between economic growth and economic development at this vital time of national transition: These are: (1) the political will (2) the adoption of the benchmark of the Social Progress Index. For want of space and time though, these two key ideas will be properly expatiated in the second part of this series. For the time being however, a Google search for “Social Progress Index” is recommended. Your findings will be so revealing.
Edafe Mukoro tweets as @RealEdafeMukoro on twitter.