How Well Did We Do, Last Year?
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”
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.