Ignatius Chukwu

last updated Tue, Nov 8, 2022 11:10 PM

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5 mins read

The Positive GDP Nobody Wants

By Ignatius Chukwu
| Updated 23:10 08/11/2022
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Nigeria's latest 5.1% GDP! It is amusing how Nigerians treat data-based reports. Nigeria is so polarized into two partisan camps that data means nothing when they want to talk. Even when they are economists, it doesn't get better.

The most amusing is the way our 'experts' react to Nigeria's GDP whenever it is released by no other than the NBS (National Bureau of Statistics). Whenever the result is negative or leads to recession, all 'economists' will agree it is correct and either berate the sitting president (especially if it's the one they hate most) or hail the sitting president (by those that love him).

The bad thing is that most analysts and commentators will blame the president for running the economy into recession or negative growth. They will never agree to look at certain factors that influence such drifts outside the president's control, such as global meltdown, pandemic, oil prices, wars, and strife, among others. Even when such 'economists' cannot point at any single bad policy that could be blamed for the decline or the policy that led to a growth, they choose to argue like street traders who will say, 'since this man came in, people have been dying, or women are giving birth to twins.'

I had warned in 2014 that public opinion would be forced into partisan compartments, meaning it would hardly be genuine. In 2015 after the presidential elections, I warned that Nigerians were so polarized along PDP/APC lines that they would analyze along J-12 vs. B-15 lines.

These referred to the 12.8million people that voted for [former President Goodluck] Jonathan and the 15.5million that voted for [President Muhammadu] Buhari. The J-12 would continue to hate, hurt, and attack every policy matter from that partisan chamber, and the B-15 would continue to argue in support of their man.

Those that were to guide Nigeria's commentary or analysis space should be the neutral chamber. But unfortunately, tribe, religion, and personal interest would not allow most Nigerians to be impartial. So, in the absence of the N-XY, the J-12 and B-15 took over all the public opinion space and continued to drive the nation's consciousness crazy to this day.  

My worry begins when the GDP is positive. When it was 0.51% for last Q1-2021 (first quarter of 2021), nobody doubted it. Everybody said it was insignificant and that the president had not done anything good. It was okay to talk that way. Now that it is 5.1%, the same 'economists' that did not challenge the source of the negative one (NBS) are saying it is doubtful.

1st quarter GDP growth (Credit: BusinessDay)

Some say this has been influenced by politics or government. Haba! Oh, it is only genuine if it is negative? That was why I mused that God would want to give Nigeria permanent doom because they cherish it when it is negative. If it is positive, we are angry and doubtful. It can never be good as long as Nigeria is concerned. We act this way because we believe that if the country burns and drifts to doom, it will mean we were right to say that such a person should not be our president. Or that good would mean he or his party should win the next election. So, a generation that only sees and thinks of the next election is the real doom.

GDP is not calculated only by a nation's national bureau. There are many external and independent organizations interested in computing it. We know Bloomberg has its own independent computation, which they use to forecast the GDP shift in every country. Many financial institutions worldwide cannot afford to wait for or rely on what the bureau of a country says on its financials but must have independent sources.

The IMF keeps records, World Bank does, IFC does, and some large international banks such as Chase Merchant Bank with an African desk in London. Their African desk headed by Razia Khan has its own computations contacts. Besides, a country's GDP has many foreign inputs such as total income from goods and services exported and imported, which helps determine the exchange rate after calculating the balance of trade and the balance payment.

Many think GDP result automatically means things are getting better for citizens or getting worse. They mislead the populace from this angle. They say, 'see, go out there on the street and see how people are suffering.' But they will never say, 'go to some places and see how people are enjoying.'

I have always said the bigger problem in Nigeria is wealth distribution. The wealth is in few hands. That is why Nigeria will be described as the world's poverty capital, yet the top 10 richest blacks in the world are mostly Nigerians. Every company that manufactures phones or exotic quickly ships to Nigeria, the poverty capital. Dubai marketers flood Nigeria to sell houses, apartments, rooms, holiday resorts to this poverty capital. Contractions!  

The issue of GDP is simple. It looks at total, not who and who got what. It's a macro-economic tool looking at total production, value, export, import, payments, balances, etc. It is not looking at micro matters of earning capacity per person and standard of living. There are other studies and indices that look at those.

We should begin to grow up as a nation. It has been said that whereas literacy 50 years ago looked at the ability to read and write, today's literacy looks at one's ability to understand ICT and digital matters. In that case, you would be illiterate when you cannot transact and interpret digital files and use ICT to understand and interpret matters, no matter how you can read and write. So, brothers and sisters, the new illiterate is here.

The government should better start a re-education of the masses so they can understand what govt agencies such as NBS, CBN, NDIC, etc, are saying and how to interpret a company's financial statements. Else, 'economists' will continue to ask you why you believe an NBS report on GDP when garri (processed cassava flour} and bread prices are going higher, and people are not able to afford their meals. An economist, indeed!

Ignatious Chukwu NBS National Bureau of Statistics


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