A symbolic turnaround on Africa’s political economy scene was recorded on Sunday when the country’s statistician-general, Yemi Kale, announced that Nigeria’s GDP now stands at $510 billion. Overjoyed, minister of finance Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala quipped that Nigeria moved 10 positions up to No. 26 on the list of the world’s largest economies, ahead of South Africa which hitherto was the largest in Africa.
The tools for the rebasing are not in doubt, but a rebased GDP does not and would not translate into development for the people unless the government does the needful. Everyone knows that Nigeria is a large market for goods and services in Africa. It is also a fact that it is the resilience of the ordinary people that have kept the economy going, not the unprecedented looting that has been growing in proportion over the years.
It will be deceitful for the Jonathan administration to lay claim to the rebased GDP as its achievement. It is a summation of over 24 years of the toiling and restructuring of previous administrations. Indeed, it is a salute to the undying spirit of the nation’s service industry that relies more on creative ingenuity than government efforts and infrastructure.
Rebasing is an eye-opener. If anything, it is an indictment on successive governments that didn’t do it since 1990. Nigeria deserves to be the giant of the continent. It only shows the disingenuousness of Nigeria’s leadership to harness the potential in the service and productive industry to launch the country into a global giant that it ordinarily should be. With these updated numbers telling the accurate picture, a smart government would seize the hour to tap into the new implications for investors as their haven in Africa. It is up to the leadership of the country to utilise the prospects for better management of the economy and switch off the klieg light on poor infrastructural deficits.
The rebased GDP has exposed the hiatus between service and manufacturing. It has also empirically scaled down the much-orchestrated economic growth of 7per cent by 50 per cent, meaning that our growth rate is actually 3.5 per cent. Skewed income distribution and the multiplication of the “desperately poor” also call for concern. The country’s dimming agriculture output raises the prospects of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Clearly, Nigeria’s current economic output is performing below its potential output. With its large population of 170 million, which is three times the size of South Africa’s (52 million), there is no point jubilating over what the telecoms revolution brought. From a little more than zero in 1990, the telecoms industry is now a key player contributing 8.53 per cent to the GDP; it is the continent’s largest telecoms market with 121.8 million active mobile lines compared with South Africa’s 40 million. Oil and gas is not revered but Nigeria still pumps Africa’s largest oil output at 2.5 million barrels a day.
At best, the rebased GDP is a mere ego massager for now, until the government does the needful and fights the endemic corruption eating the nation up. Nigerian leaders need to rise against brimming unemployment, inflation and insecurity challenge. The citizens’ quality of life matters most.