Nigeria’s Rebased GDP And The Army Of Pessimists By Azuka Onwuka
It seems there is a new club in Nigeria: National Association of Nigerian Pessimists and Cynics otherwise known by its fanciful acronym NANPC. Members of this club go to bed praying that some disaster should happen to Nigeria, and wake up feverishly searching for bad news. When they see any, they celebrate it, share it on the social media with glee, harp on it ad nauseam, and take swipes at the country and its leaders. But when they hear some good news, they feel very sad, and either ignore it or devise ways to twist the news as bad news or nothing special.
It is inexplicable how a people would wish their country ill all the time. To them, there is absolutely nothing positive happening in Nigeria; it’s always doom and gloom. Any news story about the country that is negative is deemed true but any that is positive is false.
The same scenario just played out over the weekend when the announcement came from the National Bureau of Statistics that Nigeria’s rebased Gross Domestic Product has risen to $510bn, thereby catapulting the country to the biggest economy in Africa and the 26th in the world. The immediate reaction of members of “NANPC” was: “The figures were cooked up. How does that affect the cost of garri in the market? Story, story, when the World Bank said only last week that Nigeria is among the extremely poor countries of the world!” The same people conveniently forgot to add that India and China were in that list of extremely poor countries even ahead of Nigeria. Yet, India and China are two countries frequently used as examples that Nigeria should copy.
If this new GDP record was achieved by Ghana or Kenya, it would have been celebrated by members of “NANPC” and used as a yardstick to thrash Nigeria. But since it was achieved by Nigeria, it is insignificant.
But should Nigeria’s new status as the biggest economy in Africa and the 26th in the world be celebrated? Yes! In fact, henceforth, we should drop that line in every discussion we have locally and internationally, just as we bandy our status as the most populous country in Africa and the largest oil producer in Africa. The NBS record shows that Nigeria’s GDP now stands at $510bn, while South Africa’s is $370bn.
This is an excerpt from the BBC’s story on the matter, entitled “Nigeria becomes Africa’s biggest economy”:
“Rebasing is carried out so that a nation’s GDP statistics give the most up-to-date picture of an economy as possible.
“Most countries do it at least every three years or so, but Nigeria had not updated the components in its GDP base year since 1990.
“Then, the country had one telecoms operator with around 300,000 phone lines. Now, it has a whole mobile phone industry with tens of millions of subscribers.
“Likewise, 24 years ago, there was only one airline, and now, there are many.”
While members of “NANPC” try to wave off this feat as insignificant, they fail to tell us whether South Africa is happy about it, or whether the United States is happily looking forward to China overtaking it as the world’s biggest economy.
In the 1980s, Taiwan was more in focus than China. Today, it is China all the way. Yet, Taiwan is far better than China in all human indices. As regards Human Development Index, Taiwan is grouped with Norway, the US, Japan, etc, in the elite club, under the heading: Very High Human Development. Conversely, China is ranked 101st, while India is ranked 136th in HDI. In life expectancy, Taiwan is placed 31st with 80.6 years, while China is ranked 97th with 74.2 years; and India is ranked 128th with 70 years. In spite of all these positives, Taiwan is rarely mentioned in international discussions on the great countries of the world, but China and India are. Why? The reason is simple. The GDP of China and India has grown astronomically in the last 15 years, making them the second and the tenth in the world respectively.
Again, Norway and Australia are first and second respectively in HDI – higher than the US, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, etc. It means that an average Norwegian or Australian lives a better life than an average American or German, yet, Norway and Australia are not mentioned in global discussions of top economies with high bragging rights, because their GDP is not impressive.
Also, Seychelles is the only African country that is listed under the heading: Very High Human Development. Even Russia and Indonesia don’t belong to that elite group. But when last did you hear Seychelles mentioned during discussions on global political economy or even African political economy?
A high GDP (nominal) does not mean a better life for citizens. It is different from GDP per capita, which puts the individual into account. What a high GDP does is that it gives an economy more impetus. External and internal investors pay more attention to that economy. Countries no longer take you for granted. It increases your bargaining power in world affairs. The US and European countries no longer look down on China and India. A high GDP also boosts your confidence as a nation.
The GDP means growth and not necessarily development, but growth attracts development in the long run. As your economy expands, it attracts more investments. More investments mean more opportunities. More opportunities mean more jobs. More jobs mean more money in the pocket. More money means a better life.
But all this does not happen overnight. It is worse in a country like Nigeria where its agriculture and manufacturing sectors were abandoned for decades because of oil; its electricity left in a sorry state; its roads, healthcare, education, railways, etc, all left to decay.
Some 10 years ago, perhaps only the radio arms of the BBC and VOA were the international media channels that had correspondents in Nigeria. The CNN had a West African correspondent, Jeff Koinange. Today, American CNN and Bloomberg, Chinese CCTV, Qatari Al Jazeera, South African SABC etc all have correspondents in Nigeria. Is it because they now love us more than before? No. The reason is that Nigeria elicits more interest now. Nigerian companies sponsor about three programmes on the CNN. Nigeria has many TV channels dedicated to its audience and programmes on the cable networks. MTV Base focuses on Nigerian music more than any other African country’s music. The richest African is a Nigerian and the richest woman on earth is a Nigerian. A couple of years ago, Nigeria overtook South Africa in foreign direct investment. These points all say something about an economy.
Therefore, the professional pessimists and cynics who are making light of Nigeria’s new GDP record should look for another topic to vent their negativity on. The Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, made it clear during the announcement that while Nigeria now ranks 26th on GDP, it ranks 121st on GDP per capita, showing that we still have a long journey ahead of us.
That Nigeria’s economy is growing in spite of the constant butchery from the Boko Haram insurgents is a miracle. Insecurity is a disincentive to economic growth and development. The state of the economies of Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia says it all.
However, the President needs to vigorously step up the fight against corruption to ensure that the money meant for infrastructure that will add more meaning to the lives of the citizens is not diverted into foreign banks. The National Conference must also come up with decisions that will lead to the restructuring of the nation to reduce the inter-ethnic friction and suspicion, while encouraging competitiveness and development. But the most critical factor Nigeria needs now to speed up its growth and development is constant supply of electricity. With the privatisation of electricity, the foundation has been laid for that. When the dividends of that privatisation start to emerge, then Nigeria can rest assured that it will be a country to be envied in the next 10 years. That will not only make more Nigerians abroad to troop back home, but also other nationals will see Nigeria as the preferred destination for trade, work and leisure.
Pessimists can continue seeing doom and gloom about Nigeria. “But as for me and my household,” we see hope!
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