How I would lift 50mn Nigerians out of poverty in two years – Atiku

Atiku Abubakar
Atiku Abubakar

The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, said on Monday he would set off sound economic policies that would see no fewer than 50 million Nigerians elevated out of poverty within two years.

Mr Abubakar, former vice president from 1999 to 2007, said his policies would focus on creating job opportunities that would result in vast wealth creation in Africa’s largest economy and most populous country.

“These investments will create a minimum of 2.5 million jobs annually and lift at least 50 million people from poverty in the first two years,” Mr Abubakar said during a social media event he used to kick-off his 2019 campaign and launch his manifesto.

The resulting effect of the investments would “double” Nigeria’s gross domestic to “N900 billion” by 2025, Mr Abubakar said.

The plan is one of fundamental issues that form a grand document Mr Abubakar proposed to restructure the country.

But economists are skeptical about whether such a quarter of the country’s estimated 200 million people could be taken out of poverty within two years, especially in country with acute infrastructure and manufacturing deficit amidst low crude earnings.

“There is a big difference between being lifted out of poverty and achieving prosperity,” said economist Mohammed Al-Salafi. “Providing shelter and food does not achieve prosperity.”

Mr Abubakar said the 2.5 million jobs he planned to create would help engender upward mobility for the country’s citizens, which would in turn guarantee improved security.

The former vice president has previously said he would privatise government asset that are gulping funds from the federal treasury or those not performing optimally. He had already identified the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as one of his targeted agencies.

Mr Al-Salafi said Mr Abubakar’s announcement sounds too ambitious considering Nigeria’s current state.

“If he says creating 2.5 million jobs would lift 50 million people out of poverty, that is almost impossible to achieve given that Nigeria’s average household is about five or six persons,” Mr Al-Salafi said. “So we could expect to see about 15 million people who would benefit from that policy, assuming it comes to fruition.”

The economist said Mr Abubakar’s plan to create intervention funds was short on specifics.

“We need to know whether the money is going towards small and medium-scale businesses or innovations,” he said. “SMEs do not necessarily create jobs as much as you would expect with innovations.”

“From evidence and research, the SME market is not so viable. But innovations create new markets,” he emphasised, clarifying that small businesses perform better in places like the United States because their economies have already attained maturity and moved towards services.

Mr Al-Salafi said Mr Abubakar did not say how he would address acute infrastructure deficit and moribund manufacturing sector, a gap he said seems to have left President Muhammadu Buhari as the only one with a roadmap on how to address manufacturing.

“President Buhari’s policies seem to be better in this regard because he has been pushing for some form of protection for improved local manufacturing,” he said. “The East Asian countries that have been able to achieve seven to eight percent growth have focused on manufacturing.”

Still, the expert said Mr Abubakar’s silence on manufacturing should not be immediately taken to mean he does not have a plan about it or would not advance existing government plans if elected.

“The PDP pushed the automotive policy around 2013 or so, it could be expected that Mr Abubakar would focus on that because it is one of the biggest ways to generate wealth and employment in any country,” Mr Al-Salafi said.

Mr Abubakar’s campaign for 2019 is expected to take him across the country, during which experts hope he would better communicate some of his position.

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