Buhari’s economic scorecard at 3 (1)

Eze Onyekpere

The GDP Reports of the National Bureau of Statistics show that the economy grew by 2.84 per cent and 2.11 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2015. In the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2016, the economy declined by -0.67 per cent, -1.49 per cent,-2.34 per cent and -1.73 per cent respectively. It further declined by -0.91 per cent in the first quarter of 2017 and thereafter began to grow by 0.72 per cent, 2.17 per cent and 2.11 per cent in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2017.

The growth decelerated to 1.95 per cent in the first quarter of 2018. Incidentally, throughout this period, the population of the country grew by an average of three per cent per annum which meant that even in the quarters when the GDP expanded, the expansion was less than the growth of the population.

Essentially, there has been negative movement and in the few quarters of positive movement, the economy merely stagnated and had gone nowhere near the preceding 10 years of growth at not less than 6.5 per cent per annum. Although we have exited recession, there are still genuine concerns about the health of the economy considering that economic growth projections from local and international experts for 2018 and 2019 are still less than three per cent growth. This is not good enough.

For employment and underemployment, the statistics are grim. The administration met unemployment at 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2015 but it moved up to 9.9 per cent, 10.4 per cent, 12.1 per cent and 13.3 per cent in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 and the first and second quarters of 2016 respectively. By the third quarter of 2016, unemployment had reached13.9 per cent whilst it became 14.2 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2016. The rate escalated to 14.2 per cent, 16.2 per cent and 18.2 per cent by the first, second and third quarter of 2017 respectively. Thus, unemployment had more than doubled and it is reported that no fewer than 10 million Nigerians lost their jobs during the period under review. Underemployment moved from 17.9 per cent to 21.2 per cent during the period under review. These statistics come on the back of the redefinition of the criteria for determining unemployment by the NBS which has liberalised the criteria for stating that an individual is employed. Otherwise, the figures of unemployment would have been very frightening.

Inflation as reflected in the Consumer Price Index was 9.30 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 and ended the year at 9.43 per cent. For 2016, it rose to 11.27 per cent, 15.27 per cent, 17.53 per cent and 18.45 per cent for the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively. It started a downward journey in 2017 as it declined to 17.92 per cent, 16.53 per cent, 16.01 per cent and 15.73 per cent respectively. In quarter one of 2018, it settled at 14.33 per cent. This shows that the price of goods and services has been on the upward spiral since the administration came into power. Although it has slightly moderated, it is yet to return to the single digit rate it was at inception of the administration.

It is acknowledged that the price of crude oil which is Nigeria’s chief export plummeted and reached as low as $25 per barrel from an all-time high that averaged between $70 and $100 per barrel. This could have been partially responsible for the poor economic performance but the response of the administration to the crisis seemed to have worsened the situation.  Non-oil export value was N308,696m in the third quarter of 2015 declining to N134,984m in the fourth quarter. In 2016, it plummeted to N77,071m, N62,681m, N75,065m and N129,551m in the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively. For 2017, the figures are N171,248m, N165,528m, N121,755m and N171,349m respectively for the first, second, third and fourth quarter.  This showed that non-oil exports have declined from the high-end value of N308,696 to about 55 per cent of the starting value.

Contrary to the clear provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which require that Budget Implementation Reports be produced, published and disseminated within one month from the end of each quarter, the Buhari administration publishes these reports very late when they cannot be used to make inputs into the next budget cycle. For instance, despite the fact that 2017 has ended six months ago, only a draft third quarter budget implementation report for 2017 is available. This situation calls for improved fiscal transparency.

On the positive side, the administration met the foreign exchange reserves under $30bn but has since moved it up to $47bn. This is a positive development that should be sustained to grow the reserves which will help to stabilise the economy and the currency in the event of a shock. But with the increased price of crude oil, it is pertinent to rebuild the stabilisation fund in the Excess Crude Account.

To be continued.

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