Monday, July 17, 2017 6:57 pm
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) on Monday in Abuja, said the 2014 rebasing of the nation’s economy had triggered withdrawal of international donations from Nigeria.
Executive Director of the organisation, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, said this at a workshop for members of the National Assembly on “Understanding Nigeria’s Lower, Middle Income Status and Unlocking Potential for Local Resources Mobilisation for Social Sector.’’
Rafsanjani expressed worry over the development, and said that Nigeria was witnessing a downward trend in donors’ resources as typified by the recent withdrawal of financial support by the European Union.
According to him, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) will run out by 2020, resulting in the stoppage of life-saving vaccines to 7.5 million children annually.
He said that the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had also urged governments to take full responsibility for their respective nutrition financing.
The CISLAC executive director warned that UNICEF withdrawal would lead to rise in child mortality in Nigeria.
He said that the proposed international aid cut by the United States, if executed without proactive national measures, would constitute additional challenge that would shape social sector financing in an undesirable direction.
According to him, this has a serious implication for those key sectors being supported by development partners to bridge the gap in terms of funding.
“Part of the problem Nigeria has is that the last administration in an attempt to claim success, did a wrong debasing where they said Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa.
“The rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP as an emerging economy did not in any way translate into addressing poverty, inequality and financing key sectors in the country; that is where the problem came from.
“In the wake of the rebasing, Nigeria is now fast witnessing down-sloping trend in donors’ resources buttressed by the agencies saying that Nigeria has enough resources to meet its development needs.
“But, we are saying that that rebasing was not really a reflection of the reality on the ground and it has really caused some concerns.
“This is because now if Nigeria borrows money it pays with a lot of interest unlike before that we enjoy less interest or no interest at all .’’
Rafsanjani said that the workshop was an avenue to interact with the National Assembly to brainstorm and harness potential for domestic resource mobilisation for sustainable social sector financing through appropriate legislative policy.
He said that it was also CISLAC’s interest to see how the legislature and executive could work together to address some of the challenges and see areas to move Nigeria forward.
He said that a strong legislative and policy backing was needed to sustain the gains of the current Federal Government’s social security programmes.
The call, he said, was necessary in view of the dwindling resources from donor agencies to the country’s social sector.
The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, said the workshop was useful because it discussed issues of the social sector since 2014.
Akabueze advised that Nigerians should not be carried away by the country’s classification as lower middle income country, saying it was arithmetic to be translated when Nigeria’s population was divided by the GDP per capital.
“So, by calculation, Nigeria is a lower middle income country but the vast majority of people are nowhere near lower middle income level.
“These are the people who bear the brunt of inadequate funding for the social sector, health and education.
“We are called the largest economy in Africa but it is a tiny economy because our economy caters for nearly 200 million people the same size of economy that countries in Europe with less than 20 million people have.
“Therefore, the standard of living for such countries will be vastly different from ours; so, given our large population, we need to grow.
“There is the need to spend more time debating and discussing on how to bake a larger national cake than how to divide the tiny national cake that we have .’’
Akabueze said that there was need to grow national productivity to consciously seek to uplift the vulnerable through social programme because there were people in Nigeria that still needed helping hand.
He said that job creation was also the best way to address poverty and not “handouts to people’’, adding that investment in major sectors that had the capacity to create jobs was necessary.
He said that in the light of dwindling donations and grants, Nigeria should learn to manage whatever resources it had for the good of the larger majority of citizens and not for the good of a few. (NAN)