The importance of growth to development generally cannot be overemphasized. It is a basic characteristic of every living thing. Growth is an irreversible constant increase in size. It is associated with progressive development. An organism’s growth may go on throughout its life, until it is fully matured. For a country, the same applies except that it is seen and measured in terms of the rate of increase in the gross domestic product (GDP). It is figured out by comparing the gross domestic product to the population. The growth of a country, which is also referred to as economic growth shows how a country is developing its economy.
Growth varies from country to country depending on their individual economy. Every country is unique based on population, technology, government, wealth etc. Growth of a country is promoted in diverse ways. The first is productivity growth. Increased productivity leads to decrease in the cost of goods and services, and ultimately increase in per capita income. The other is the age structure of the population. This affects the labour force participation rate. Human capital which refers to the skills of the population is equally critical. Human capital is measured by the educational attainment of citizens. As important as human capital is the need for equality, trade between countries and the quality of life of citizens.
Despite significant gains in promoting economic growth and living conditions globally over the last two and half decades using the above, many developing countries are still grappling with the problem poverty and its attendant problems, including high mortality, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and conflict. In Nigeria, the problems have led to huge humanitarian crises. Over 13 million children are out of school around half of whom are girls. Two-thirds of this population are concentrated in the north. Figure from the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2020, 40% or 83 million Nigerians live in poverty. Government in response, and with the advent of covid-19 increased the number of citizens in the social register by 1million in furtherance of the implementation of the social protection programme.
The social protection programme, a special purpose vehicle for lifting the poor out of poverty under the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), has four components: N-Power, Government Enterprise, and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Home-Grown School Feeding programme. The target of the programme is to graduate citizens from poverty through capacity building, investment, and direct support.
Though the administration said it has lifted 10.5 million Nigerians out of poverty, Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the declaration following the harsh economic conditions in the country. The concern was confirmed by the statement of the world Bank no sooner than the government came up with the pronouncement, asserting that inflation has plunged seven million Nigerians into poverty.
For the social protection programme to truly deliver empowerment to citizens, the issues that plagued earlier social protection programmes must be properly dealt with in the implementation of this current one. Government must as a matter of deliberate action deal squarely and take seriously the following going forward so that the growth and development of the country and the empowerment of citizens to contribute to the growth will not be hampered. Effort should be made to address the challenge of weak cooperation between the Federal, State and Local Government in the implementation of the programme. Unreliable mechanisms for targeting beneficiaries should be addressed. If the targets are the poorest of the poor in society, no person(s) who do not fall into the category should be found on the social register. Credible and harmonized data base for planning should be ensured. Monitoring and evaluation, grievance and redress management processes and systems should be in place and must be functional. There must also be a transparent and effective payment system as well as accountability and a system to accurately capture the impact of the programme.
Empowerment of citizens is more than ever before critical at this stage of Nigeria’s development. Building the capacities of Nigerians to transition into sectors and jobs of the future will not only be the way to go but will serve as a panacea to the country’s malaise. Nigeria needs more industrial production, foreign and domestic investment to set the country’s development trajectory right, and by that reverse the current growth and empowerment challenges.