23 July 2014, Abuja – Nigeria’s short term macroeconomic outlook improved in the first half of this year relative to 2013, according to the World Bank in its new Nigeria Economic Report (NER) launched yesterday in Abuja.
The report states: Revenues to the Federation have increased, foreign reserves have stabilised, the Excess Crude Account (ECA) has been augmented, and prospects for growth are stronger than last year.”
The stabilisation of foreign reserves the World Bank said, “reflects greater confidence among investors. Following a year of decline, foreign reserves stabilised in April-May, in the context of improved confidence of investors.
The precise causes of this stabilization the World Bank noted, will need to be assessed further when more data becomes available. “Yet the partial stabilisation of expectations of investors concerning oil prices, fiscal policy, and the commitment of the Central Bank to defending the exchange rate is clearly important,” said the World Bank.
Expectations about the performance of the oil sector, it said, have improved in general, bolstered by increases in oil revenues accruing to the government.
The World Bank, using the International Labour Organisation (ILO), definition, stated that “unemployment rate in Nigeria, according to a usual ILO definition, is likely lower than 10 per cent.
This, it said, “is the conclusion that comes from unofficial assessments, including that of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and does not contradict the fact that the scarcity of jobs is the number one economic in Nigeria”.
As in many other developing countries, the report noted, “most Nigerians cannot afford to be completely unemployed”. “Those without good productive employment therefore typically engage in various low productivity and low paying tasks for survival.”
Unemployment, the report said, “may be better understood as an underemployment problem corresponding to a scarcity of high productivity jobs, and in many cases of highly qualified candidates to fill those jobs”. “These additional jobs and qualifications need to be created in Nigeria through accelerated private sector growth in the cities and improvements in the country’s education system.”
The re-based GDP estimates reveal a larger, more dynamic and complex economy than did previous statistics, said the report, stresses that macroeconomic risks remain due to uncertainty about future oil output, oil prices and short term capital flows.
The NER analyses new data from household surveys in 2010/2011 and 2012/2013 to reassess poverty and living standards in Nigeria and “concludes that poverty rates in Nigeria are likely significantly lower than previously believed, and progress toward poverty reduction may be stronger”.
According to the report, “poverty reduction in Nigeria appears to be primarily an urban phenomenon, with poverty rates in rural areas higher, and poverty reduction slower”.
While recent panel surveys indicate that the per capita national poverty rate based on the official poverty line may now be as low as 33.1 per cent, a large share of the Nigerian population the report said “is still not far above the poverty line, indicating vulnerability.”
“The combination of the new GDP and poverty estimates is valuable in giving us what we believe to be a clearer picture of development and poverty reduction in Nigeria,” said John Litwack, Lead Economist and Acting Country Manager of the World Bank.
The NER also highlights continuing differences between Nigeria’s regions in poverty reduction. The South and North Central regions show progress in poverty reduction between 2010 and 2013. The North West witnessed little change, and the Northeast experienced an increase in the poverty rate along with a general decline in living standards.
“Improvements in public services, key infrastructure to better connect markets, and measures to increase productivity in agriculture could help put Northern regions on a strong path toward poverty reduction,” said Mr Litwack, lead author of the report, whilst also noting the critical role of security.
In 2013, federation revenues mirrored federal budgetary revenues which also fell short of expectations in 2013, despite coverage by the ECA of a good part of the shortfalls.
The World Bank report noted that “some expenditure items were not fully funded. In particular, the capital budget was significantly underfunded while recurrent expenditures and statutory transfers were almost fully funded. Actual capital spending in 2013 was 60 per cent of planned. The federal budget deficit for 2013 of 738.9 billion Naira was 17 per cent lower than projected and amounted to one percent of (re-based) GDP.”
– The Nation