The President and his Finance experts were under attack yesterday over the “necessary” but “unrealistic” rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The rebasing makes the country Africa’s largest economy.
To Labour, a good GDP without jobs is meaningless. A governor advised President Goodluck Jonathan to face the reality in the land – hunger, unemployment and poverty – instead of being carried away by the rebasing.
The position of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is a continuation of the assessment of the rebasing announced on Sunday by the government.
World Bank economists have also cautioned that a large economy does not guarantee foreign investments.
“What matters is living standards for everyone and the productivity that gurantees those living standards,” World Bank Chief Economist, Africa Region, Mr. Francisco Ferreira, said.
The government said the long-overdue rebasing – the last one was done in 1990- places Nigeria’s GDP at $509.9b as against South Africa’s $370.3b.
In a report, the Economist said in spite of Sunday’s announcement of the rebasing, “Nigerians are not richer than they were on Saturday night. The majority of the country’s 170 million people live on less than a dollar a day”.
In a statement by NLC’s acting President Promise Adewusi titled “Good GDP without sustainable and viable jobs: A time bomb”, the labour said the GDP will only make meaning to the labour family if it translates into improved living conditions for the ordinary Nigerian, which is not the case at the moment.
Adewusi said the living conditions in the past couple of years have been progressively nosediving and pathetic.
Deriding the data, the congress said: “Nigeria being the biggest economy in Africa ought to make no news if vital national statistics, such as population, natural resources etc, were to form the requisite assumptions for assessment.”
The congress added that economic growth without jobs and food on the table, meant nothing in reality.
“Unemployment figures are frightening. We have found it necessary to warn time without number that the army of the unemployed youths constitutes a veritable army of the disparate, the desperate and the angry, and that government should urgently address the problem.
“So far, nothing has illustrated this fear better than the recent Immigration recruitment tragedy. We do not need any economist or diviner to tell us that life has improved, because it has not.”
A GDP, said Adewusi, could not be said to have significantly improved if our industries are virtually shut and the operating environment increasingly hostile. Government should worry that the performance index of industries dropped from 46.08 per cent to 25.81 per cent while service industry more than doubled to 50 per cent from 23.03 per cent. “
The NLC submitted that this represents a significant change in the economy, a negative change that points to consumption to the exclusion of production.
The NLC said Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for good measure, added: “We did not set out to become the biggest economy in Africa. We set out to measure how much the economy has changed. And that is the outcome. Becoming the largest economy on the continent is a positive development, but that is not the destination …”.
“As cheering as this news may be, however, we at the Nigeria Labour Congress are not completely swayed by the latest GDP figure, nationalist as it seems.”
The statement added: “As we commend the government for achieving the feat of economic rebasing, we urge it to ensure this figure translates into improved living conditions, jobs, revival of industries and improvement of internal and national security. For those will be the measurable indices and indicators of an enlarging and progressive economy.”
Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, also yesterday, dismissed the GDP rebasing as a mere fiction, which does not reflect the true state of the economy.
Kwankwaso, who urged President Goodluck Jonathan not to be carried away by “the fiction”, counselled him to be more realistic by fighting the serious decay in the economy, which he said is threatening the foundation of the existence of Nigeria’s development.
Kwankwaso, who spoke in Kano when the African Democratic Congress (ADC) visited him at the Government House, insisted that any practical economist would understand that what the government is claiming does not reflect what is on ground as hunger, starvation, diseases and insecurity are threatening the country.
Kwankwaso said the so-called Railway development undertaken by the Federal Government, ended up in flooding the country with 1902 category trains, which he said are so dirty and stinking. His view is that what the country needs is real economic development and not paper-based development.
“President Goodluck Jonathan should be more practical in governance and desist from fiction and unrealistic theories that have nothing to do with what is on ground,” he said, adding that Nigeria is in dire need of good governance that would salvage it from the threat of insurgents.
Kwankwaso noted that except the growth in Nigeria’s economy which they are claiming must have fallen in the hands of some selected kinsmen and politicians from the South and North, who reside in Abuja, but to talk to ordinary Nigerians that the country’ s economy has grown tremendously will be “laughable”.
But the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Mr. Kabir Mohammed, said the figures have moved Nigeria to its right position.
Speaking with State House correspondents after leading some members on a visit to the President, Mohammed said it was the right time for investors to come in.
“It is an opportunity for Nigeria to come up to date and take her rightful place among the comity of nations. Using these bases, you can see that we have moved into our proper position.
“We have incorporated structures hitherto not considered. This is an opportunity for people who want to invest in the country to make the right decision and come in,” he said.
On classification of Nigeria as one of the countries with extreme poverty, he said: “It does not change our figures at all. It does not change our figures.
“The fact is that two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Mohammed said he would continue to uphold the ethics of the accounting and ensure that any corrupt accountant is brought to book.
“As the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, let me put it to you, if you have any ICAN member involved in corrupt practices, please bring him or her forward. We have our disciplinary procedures. We shall handle the case appropriately.”
On the reasons for the visit, Mohammed said: “I led members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, to pay a courtesy call on Mr. president to congratulate him on the wedding of his daughter this weekend and the rebasing of the GDP as well as discuss issues of national importance.”
Also speaking on alleged corruption by accountants, Minister of Trade and Investment Olusegun Aganga said: “Accounting anywhere in the world is a noble profession and that is why not every body is chartered to practise. It is the only profession where you study Economics, Law, taxation and everything, to do with business.”