by Babatope Falade
The media is always awash with figures on competitiveness, statistics on human capital, various economic indices, and policy alternatives. The greatest of all the elements discussed in global business and economics is GDP; gross domestic product.
GDP is generally a capture of how economies are faring in terms of goods and services produced and traded by nationals and foreigners in a given country. The quality of life of people is seen through the mirror of GDP per capita. Sometimes I feel GDP is a gospel message, the way it forewarns and people listen when its spoken about.
The truth is GDP is a global tool, meant for an in depth understanding of how people and countries are faring globally. It suits the developed countries, however it may be disadvantageous for the developing and underdeveloped countries. The term is worrisome, I hope our development communication experts realize this in due time and salvage the situation. What news about GDP simply does is rob us of accountability of how the average Nigerian is faring in terms of unemployment, livelihood in our rural areas and most importantly, the level of inequality through the Gini coeffiecient.
All we keep hearing is GDP growth everywhere, GDP growth that has not improved the quality of life of the average Nigerian. What is the essence of such growth? Global prominence, diplomatic aggrandizement and awards for the political and finance elite – those are the best results we in developing and underdeveloped nations may get. The world economy is supposed to grow at 2.2% collectively, that’s bad news for investors; Nigeria’s economy expanded 6.7% in the second quarter of 2013, that’s good news for investors. But none of it may anything for the average Nigerian.
I am not disputing the fact that some countries that are developing don’t have a high GDP alongside effective means of pulling people out of poverty, by reducing inequality and increasing domestic credit. Brazil has done it, afterall Lula did raise 22million people out of poverty within 8years! What’s happening in Nigeria is just discussions on GDP. Our ministers and president need to step up their efforts and concentrate on the right things and right discussions vigorously.
There is also a tendency for many of us to be inundated with media talks of GDP, hence making it our reality, thereby ensuring that we don’t criticize the square pegs in round holes. The media also appropriates views from certain commentators and professionals. For instance, Samir Gadio of Renaissance Capital’s views are largely aired as the somewhat authority on our markets. Policy makers , civil society and decision makers who can improve the quality of equality should get some media literacy to have a balanced judgement of what indices should take prominence in judging the well being of Nigerians.
What happened to GNP (Gross National Product) which measures the contribution of our own locals? Please we need to know that and that’s what Tony Elumelu has been trying to perpetuate with the Africapitalism project. The idea is to foster growth of African entrepreneurs because that is what would guarantee that jobs would remain on the continent, should foreign nationals decide to leave. That would encourage more intra-African trade and development of infrastructure and also a boost in the knowledge economy. My major concern is job creation through industrialization. Manufacturing in Nigeria is in a terrible state and the approach to power the second largest economy in Africa is too poor.
Unemployment still stands at “commendable” double digits (23.9%) that I think is generous enough, because some of those employed are underemployed. The bottomline is this; our leaders should stop basking in this GDP language and do more about inequality. We need a constant update of how our entrepreneurs are faring, GNP figures, manufacturing and industrialization.
We are tired of growth without jobs. We are confused about growth with increasing inequality. We need quality livelihood, not an ever growing GDP.