How Well Did We Do, Last Year?

Boundless Magazine - - Contents - By Ud­din Ifeanyi

Un­for­tu­nately, over the years, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s guid­ance on the economy’s out­look has di­verged from even­tual out­comes in ways that have turned the for­mer into an ex­er­cise in cre­ative writ­ing. The even­tual out­come, as in the numbers for last year’s bud­get, is not so much stranger than fic­tion. But undi­luted mag­i­cal re­al­ism.

How well did the Nige­rian economy do last year? Ahead of the (now-post­poned) general elec­tions this month, there might be some value to find­ing an­swers to this ques­tion; and, hope­fully, enough com­pen­sa­tion for dredg­ing

through numbers on the economy’s out­put per­for­mance re­cently, put out by the Na­tional Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In terms, too, of the dis­course around the economy’s op­ti­mal growth and de­vel­op­ment route/ pace, a sense of how well we’ve fared to date is useful. At 1.93 per cent an­nual growth, the economy’s per­for­mance last year was nowhere near the guid­ance put out by

of­fi­cial estimates. Al­though it is far bet­ter than the 0.83 per cent recorded in 2017. The 2018 growth number is, how­ever, far closer to numbers put out by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF). How does this mat­ter?

The fur­ther ac­tual per­for­mance is from of­fi­cial estimates, the more un­be­liev­able (and use­less) the lat­ter are. Un­for­tu­nately, over the years, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s guid­ance on the economy’s out­look has di­verged from even­tual out­comes in ways that have turned the for­mer into an ex­er­cise in cre­ative writ­ing. The even­tual out­come, as in the numbers for last year’s bud­get, is not so much stranger than fic­tion. But undi­luted mag­i­cal re­al­ism.

Nonethe­less, the dis­ag­gre­gated out­put numbers for last year tell a useful story. The 2.83 per cent growth rate recorded in the three months to end-De­cem­ber is par­tic­u­larly loud. It not just speaks to the possibilit­y of stronger do­mes­tic out­put per­for­mance in the near-term, it’s the strong­est shift that the economy has put in since the April to June 2017 pe­riod. Just as im­por­tant, the economy’s growth base in the fi­nal quar­ter of 2018 is the broad­est in al­most three years. Over the last three years, of the economy’s 46 ac­tiv­ity sec­tors mea­sured by the NBS, growth has usu­ally fallen (quar­ter-on-quar­ter) in at least 10 sec­tors. Much of the sub-2 per cent growth since the economy emerged from its last re­ces­sion have, thus, been due to a hand­ful of eco­nomic sec­tors car­ry­ing the growth bur­den.

In the Oc­to­ber-De­cem­ber 2018 pe­riod, how­ever, only seven of these quar­ters saw growth come in be­low their per­for­mance in the previous quar­ter. Thus, on an an­nual ba­sis, crop pro­duc­tion (ac­count­ing for 22.61 per cent of the economy’s size); telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions (9.46 per cent); crude petroleum and nat­u­ral gas (8.60 per cent); food, bev­er­age and to­bacco (4.15 per cent); con­struc­tion (3.73 per cent); and pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ser­vices (3.64 per cent), all turned in growth. Im­por­tant sec­tors all. And big con­trib­u­tors to

do­mes­tic out­put. The telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor, es­pe­cially, turned in de­cent growth last year (11.33 per cent), af­ter a dis­mal per­for­mance in 2017. Given how poorly average rev­enue per user on voice calls have per­formed, the hope is that the sec­tor’s pivot to data as a rev­enue source is com­plete and sus­tain­able over the medium-term.

The in­vest­ment in 5G net­works that will even­tu­ally sup­port the in­ter­net of things will both test the sec­tors capacity over the medium-term, while open­ing strong rev­enue sources for successful tel­cos.

Growth in crop pro­duc­tion was mid­dling last year. At 2.26 per cent, it was the slow­est

There are big­ger wor­ries even then. Whether the pre­ferred mea­sure is nom­i­nal or real out­put growth, nei­ther has kept pace with the needs of the economy — es­pe­cially the needs of a young, rapidly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. And this is the nub of our de­vel­op­ment chal­lenge.

in 30 years. Now, this is not just the biggest con­trib­u­tor to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, it is the biggest em­ployer of labour in the economy. Within the con­text, then, of the Buhari administra­tion’s in­sis­tence that the sec­tor ac­counted for more in­for­mal jobs in 2018 than the of­fi­cial bean crunch­ers cap­tured, this soft growth number can only mean one thing. A rain-fed, sub­sis­tence sec­tor of the economy has reached the fron­tiers of its pro­duc­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties. With­out rootand-branch reforms to the sec­tor, fall­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity will be­come an even big­ger threat to in­come in­equal­ity and so­cial co­he­sion.

…for three years run­ning, the trade sec­tor has con­tracted. Not sur­pris­ing giv­ing how much the last re­ces­sion, and the cen­tral bank’s failure to ad­dress ris­ing do­mes­tic prices have hurt dis­pos­able incomes — es­pe­cially at the famed bot­tom of the pyra­mid.

The numbers for trade also mat­ter. As proxy for house­hold spend­ing, a re­cov­ery in out­put growth in the trade sec­tor should fore­shadow stronger con­sumer sen­ti­ments. Alas, for three years run­ning, the trade sec­tor has con­tracted. Not sur­pris­ing giv­ing how much the last re­ces­sion, and the cen­tral bank’s failure to ad­dress ris­ing do­mes­tic prices have hurt dis­pos­able incomes — es­pe­cially at the famed bot­tom of the pyra­mid. With­out im­prove­ments in con­sumer spend­ing, busi­nesses will con­tinue to floun­der. By how much this year? Not nearly as much as has been sug­gested by the percentage in­crease in the min­i­mum wage. And if house­holds, even at the lower end of the pyra­mid, elect first to fix their bal­ance sheets ahead of spend­ing, then, not by much. In ad­di­tion to which, there is al­ways the in­fla­tion bo­gey to worry about.

There are big­ger wor­ries even then. Whether the pre­ferred mea­sure is nom­i­nal or real out­put growth, nei­ther has kept pace with the needs of the economy — es­pe­cially the needs of a young, rapidly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. And this is the nub of our de­vel­op­ment chal­lenge. For as long as our pop­u­la­tion continues to grow faster than do­mes­tic out­put, the pres­sures that we’ve be­come fa­mil­iar with, and un­der which the larger number of our com­pa­tri­ots chafe, will remain un­re­lent­ing. All of which cre­ate ad­di­tional pressure to re-ex­am­ine from first prin­ci­ples the do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion to the mar­ket as a so­lu­tion to our prob­lems.

Women are at the heart of the smooth func­tion­ing of the globe. At the most ba­sic level, they have mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties as unique in­di­vid­u­als, pro­fes­sion­als/en­trepreneur­s, wives, moth­ers and also car­ers. It is un­re­al­is­tic es­pe­cially for the wo­man to view work and fam­ily as sep­a­rate worlds. They both over­lap and in­ter­act. This piece, through the eyes of a man, ex­am­ines the over­lap­ping chal­lenges faced by women at home, at work and in the society at large and how all stake­hold­ers can help to make their lives eas­ier and more successful in our common in­ter­est.

The “con­straints” faced by ladies in their pur­suit of eco­nomic and financial au­ton­omy (or ca­reer), are clas­si­fied and dis­cussed here un­der three head­ers namely do­mes­tic work, child and fam­ily care and pro­fes­sional barriers. As will be ob­served, gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ers have ma­jor roles to play in al­le­vi­at­ing the bur­dens of women in ca­reers in Nige­ria. This writer recog­nises that women are not a ho­moge­nous group and they do not all want the same thing at the same time. Their at­ti­tudes, char­ac­ter and per­son­al­i­ties are dif­fer­ent and there­fore not ev­ery mat­ter in this piece will find peace within ev­ery wo­man or in­deed man.

As fur­ther foun­da­tion to this ar­ti­cle, if a wo­man is mar­ried, she needs to have a-pri­ori cho­sen a morally sup­port­ive husband. That must be got­ten right. In ad­di­tion, even if the home is dual in­come, the husband should be se­cure enough to en­cour­age his wife to wholly keep her earned in­come – so as to achieve a sense of au­tonomous financial se­cu­rity that all ladies crave. Ever heard: “My money is my money while his money is our money.”? Now, the con­ver­sa­tion around home and ca­reer eco­nom­ics of wom­an­hood for the in­ter­est of all stake­hold­ers begins.

The biggest ar­gu­ment against do­mes­tic work is that, de­pend­ing on the au­thor, her approach and un­der­ly­ing as­sump­tions, Nige­ria po­ten­tially loses up to 10% of its GDP as op­por­tu­nity cost of en­cum­ber­ing ladies with do­mes­tic du­ties. Do­mes­tic work done by women (un­paid) is deemed a sub­sidy for the rest of the economy and a time tax on women through­out their lives. Af­ter all, we all de­pend on our wives’ and moth­ers’ do­mes­tic work.

To ad­dress the above, men and women need to invest in things that make life sim­pler and

The biggest ar­gu­ment against do­mes­tic work is that, de­pend­ing on the au­thor, her approach and un­der­ly­ing as­sump­tions, Nige­ria po­ten­tially loses up to 10% of its GDP as op­por­tu­nity cost of en­cum­ber­ing ladies with do­mes­tic du­ties.

eas­ier – pay for a full time nanny, house­keeper, or­der gro­ceries on­line, hire a cook, etc.

De­spite its ben­e­fits, in­for­mal sup­port, es­pe­cially that which is pro­cured from ru­ral ar­eas per­pet­u­ates so­cial in­equal­ity es­pe­cially against young girls who should be in school up to as far as they wish. It is high time gov­ern­ment deep­ened and ex­tended its con­di­tional trans­fer pro­gramme to tar­get young girls and en­cour­age them to en­rol in and com­plete school. I di­gress.

Children should also ap­ply them­selves fully to home chores and view this as a way of fur­ther strength­en­ing the fam­ily and pre­par­ing them for their own future in­de­pen­dent fam­ily/ca­reer lives. Boys and girls should be brought to task in that re­gard. Work­ing moth­ers should not have to choose be­tween child­care for in­stance and pur­suit of a successful ca­reer. Nige­rian com­pa­nies should sup­port both. That should be the start of the much touted cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity –

safe­guard­ing and pro­mot­ing the lives of the future gen­er­a­tions.

It need not be overem­pha­sised that it is at home in fam­i­lies that future

Work­ing moth­ers should not have to choose be­tween child­care for in­stance and pur­suit of a successful ca­reer. Nige­rian com­pa­nies should sup­port both. That should be the start of the much touted cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity – safe­guard­ing and pro­mot­ing the lives of the future gen­er­a­tions.

work­ers are born, their skills are nur­tured and their health main­tained. Lead­ers at home, at work and in gov­ern­ment at all lev­els must align our think­ing and de­velop cra­dle-to-grave, full life cy­cle ini­tia­tives that sup­port the cre­ation and pro­mo­tion of fam­i­lies – the vi­tal so­cioe­co­nomic unit re­quired for na­tional progress.

In the pro­fes­sional world, women need sup­port­ive bosses as well as access to role mod­els that will give prac­ti­cal ad­vice on how to make successful life (not just ca­reer) jour­neys. Most times, men hold the po­si­tion of power and they can help, so women need to reach out, while be­ing care­ful of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and ex­ploita­tion.

Most cou­ples work full time and spend lit­tle qual­ity time to­gether let alone with their children. Em­ploy­ers must de­lib­er­ately and con­sciously ad­mit that the pre­vail­ing work ar­range­ment and cul­ture to­day needs to

change. The cost of re­sist­ing change is be­ing borne by fam­i­lies through burnout, de­pres­sion and ar­guably sui­cide. Em­ploy­ers also lose great staff. Flex­i­ble work­ing hours and pro­vi­sion of on­site child care could be a com­pet­i­tive advantage that ce­ments em­ployee loyalty.

Em­ploy­ers do not have to do so many things. A fo­cus on few, high im­pact in­ter­ven­tions would do. For in­stance, women could re­sume and close work at 9:30am and 3:30pm re­spec­tively while men main­tain the sta­tus quo.

Men should be al­lowed to opt for sim­i­lar ar­range­ment if they choose to. Women and men could also vol­un­tar­ily con­sider hav­ing a dis­con­tin­u­ous or “stag­gered”

ca­reer.

Women who find them­selves in hos­tile em­ployer en­vi­ron­ments can choose to be­come “Boss Madams” by opting out and pur­su­ing

en­tre­pre­neur­ial ca­reers. Nige­ria could be­come the female en­tre­pre­neur­ial cap­i­tal of the world where ladies have well rounded lives an­chored on vi­able per­sonal choice. Gov­ern­ment poli­cies could thus tar­get women-owned busi­nesses for af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion such as contract awards and access to fi­nance. Launch­ing a busi­ness to­gether can also help husband and wife achieve in­te­grated fam­i­ly­work lives.

Over­all, in or­der to as­sist women make their ad­di­tional multi-bil­lion dol­lar GDP con­tri­bu­tion, we all need to change - spouses, em­ploy­ers, employees and gov­ern­ment – we need to shift our minds to begin to view child care and el­derly care as a pri­vate re­spon­si­bil­ity in pub­lic in­ter­est. Home man­age­ment in its broad­est form is not in any way in­fe­rior to ca­reer work – cor­po­rate lead­ers must believe this and es­pouse it. Ac­com­mo­da­tion of fam­ily in work life is a key fea­ture of pos­i­tive eco­nomic, labour and so­cial pol­icy. Men need the most en­cour­age­ment to vol­un­tar­ily en­gage at home es­pe­cially in child and general fam­ily care. It will be a very long jour­ney but it has al­ready started with the very first steps. We can do this!

May­owa Amoo is an in­vest­ment banker based in La­gos.

Photo Credit: Pex­els

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