More than ever before, Nigeria needs to tackle inequality and low human capital but its leaders see physical structures as signs of a successful time in office, hence they channel available funds towards infrastructural development at the expense of the former.
It is no longer surprising when African countries are least ranked on global indexes. No African country was ranked among the high-income countries that had introduced progressive taxation, strong welfare conditions and safety for their workers and these are the conversations countries in Africa need to be having in order to bridge the gap between them and countries in other regions.
Nigeria is seen sitting comfortably at the bottom of two global indexes, the World Bank’s Human Capital Index the Inequality Index by Oxfam released over the past few days. Nigeria was ranked 152 out of 157 countries in the first edition of the Human Capital Index released by the World Bank at the ongoing annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Bali, Indonesia.
Human capital is the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes and creativity embodied in the ability to perform labour so as to produce economic value. The first edition of the Human Capital index released in October 2018 ranks 157 countries based on their education and health outcomes and the impact they are having on productivity. Unfortunately, Nigeria once again failed to make the cut.
This, the World Bank President, Jim Kim said is because African leaders were unwilling to invest in people if there was no grant.
Oxfam, the global charity dedicated to combating poverty in the idex developed with Development Finance Internation (DFI), ranked Nigeria last of 157 countries in its 2018 inequality index for its lack of efforts to bridge the inequality gap. Donald Kaberuka, African Development Bank’s seventh President noted that there was no reason inequality and extreme poverty should exist in Nigeria considering that the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men ($29.9 billion) could end extreme poverty in the country where over 5 million people are hungry.
Corruption has been a big issue in Nigeria and has so far, played a big role in the slow growth experienced in the country. Worse is the lip service paid to fighting graft in the country where many who are accused of corrupt practices are not investigated and some indicted ones allowed to walk free. Global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), in its 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Nigeria 140 out of 180 countries due to its perceived levels of public sector corruption.
Although corruption has largely contributed to worsening the state of things in the country, poor economic decisions have also worsened inequality, widened the wage gap and led to wrong investment priorities.
Occasionally, global independent bodies release reports indicating the state of things in countries based on the data gotten in these countries. While these reports are supposed to serve as eye-openers as well as guidelines on where nations are getting things right or wrong, it has inadvertently put pressure on some countries to deliver, especially Nigeria.
According to the World Bank President, Nigeria’s approach of pumping funds into road and infrastructure as opposed to putting money in health and education is the fault of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are guilty of releasing funds majorly for infrastructural development.
“Nigeria is one of the most important countries not only in Africa but in the world and so we feel that it will be extremely important for Nigeria to really go on a different level altogether in terms of their commitment to invest in human capital. I think that the World Bank has to take some responsibility for having emphasized hard infrastructure, roads, rails, energy for a very long time,” Kim stated.
Infrastructure is still a challenge and one of the biggest impediments to Nigeria’s development as the country loses two percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yearly, due to inadequate infrastructure. However, the country loses more to lack of human capital development because the government has failed to make adequate use of the resources available.
Nigeria’s social spending on health, education and social protection is low, resulting in more than 10 million children in Nigeria being out of school and the death of 1 in 10 children before their 5th birthday.
The country has failed to provide high levels of prosperity to its citizens. The Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) which measures the institutions, policies and factors that set a sustainable current and medium-term levels of economic prosperity ranked Nigeria low as well in its most recent report.
The 2017-2018 GCI report published by the World Economic Forum scored Nigeria 3.30 points out of 7. Competitiveness Index in Nigeria averaged 3.53 Points from 2007 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 3.81 Points in 2009 and a record low of 3.30 Points in 2018. The variables were organized into 12 pillars; institutions, macroeconomic framework, health and primary education, as well as higher education and training among others.
Should this continue, the country will fail to end poverty, fail to make sustainable economic progress that benefits everyone in society but will continue to have the unenviable position of being at the bottom of different indexes.