Economic rebasing: Growth without development



One of the major issues in the Nigerian media last week was the release by the Statistician – General of the Domestic Product Calculation which stands at $509.9 billion up from $285.56 billion in 2010. Based on this calculation, Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa. Related to this is the fact that the per capita income increased from $1.555 to $2,688. The conclusion that could be drawn from the statistical data is that the economy is performing well. A good news emerging from these figures is that the GDP of Nigeria is bigger than that of our closest rival – South Africa. This is the first time this has happened as Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance correctly observed it is a big psychological boost to Nigeria. The News Magazine last week described it as a bragging right for Nigeria in international politics.

One obvious conclusion which could be drawn from the released figures is that the economy has grown. The service sector is now ahead of the agricultural sector which is a clear indication of structural transformation.

The growth in the economy is largely due to the contributions from the communication and entertainment industries. The contribution of the major sectors of the economy are service sector 52% of the GDP, with industry 25.7%, Agriculture 22%, Telecommunication 8.69%, Manufacturing 6.83% and Entertainment 1.42%. Economic Growth is a quantitative transformation of major economic variables.
The economic growth in Nigeria is without development which a quantitative transformation of not just the economy but the entire social system. This is why Rodney (1969) defined development as “many-sided process. At the level of the individual it implies skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline and material well-being. For Todaro, development is a “multi-dimensional process, involving the re-organization and re-orientation of the entire economic and social system. This involves in addition to the improvement of income and output, radical change in institutional, social and administrative structures as well as in popular attitudes, customs and beliefs”.

For Seers (1969) the questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore:  “What has been happening to Poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all of three have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned. If one or two of these general problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have it would be strange to call the result development, even if the per capita income doubled”.

From the foregoing definitions, it could be seen that the growth in the economy of Nigeria did not translate into development. Certain statistical data support this assertion. These are mass unemployment, high degree of illiteracy, low income for majority of workers, poor housing, child labour, wide gap between the rich and the poor, anti-social vices like robbery, kidnapping, insurgencies, communal violence, widespread corruption and low technology.

The unique features of the under-development of Nigeria include wide disparity between the rich and the poor. The gap between the two groups continues to widen thereby making the rich to become richer; while the poor become poorer. This is due to the public policies which favour the ruling elite.

The second feature of underdevelopment of Nigeria is corruption which has adversely penetrated the fabric of the social system. This dangerous cankerworm has caused havoc in the economy, bureaucracy educational system, healthcare delivery and security forces.

The Statistician – General has done a beautiful job in presenting the current status of the GDP and should be congratulated and if possible awarded a national honour. At least Nigerians can beat their chest and brag that their economy is bigger than that of South Africa.

The challenge of development is a policy issue which is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance who has been school in the IMF School based on economic theory of lassie-faire. Because of her parochial intellectual perspective, the country cannot develop. Her study of capitalist development is not complete as she did not know that Welfarism is an essential aspect of state building.

All advanced capitalist societies introduced welfarism to prevent their citizens’ from drifting into anti-social activities such as we have today. The Minister has been unable to modify IMF policy to suit the Nigerian environment.

This is largely the reason for the decay in the social system. Nigeria is accumulating loan when the price of oil, the mainstay of the economy is at record high.

She should learn from the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who managed the thirty-months civil war without borrowing from the IMF; General Abacha left behind in the confers of Nigeria the biggest savings in our history. He did this without borrowing from IMF.

The conditionalities of IMF are not people friendly and are merely instrument of neo-colonialism. From the foregoing, it has become necessary for the Economic Management Team to go back to the drawing table to rebase the development strategy as growth without development is meaningless to the masses. The consensus of all development scholars is that an ideal state is that which promotes the happiest of the greatest number of its citizens and not that of minority few.

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