Today is the 2016 International Youth Day, and this year’s theme is “Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production. The theme is informed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 1 and 12.
Eradicating poverty in all its form in the next 15 years sound very ambitious, and would require decisive actions. To achieve that, we have to Know what this poverty is all about, and what measures poverty status of a people. Poverty can be understood from different perspective. From income perspective, Poverty is a situation where a person is wanting to spend more than $1.90 a day, but cannot because the person does not have the money (United Nation Threshold). From National Poverty Line, a poor person is the one that cannot spend approximately N300 in a day.
Poverty can be perceived from Education perspective, where a person does not have the required knowledge and understanding to live a decent life, so that he/she can be responsible agent politically, socially and economically. Lack of Education and Skills are the worst poverty in the world, and have caused insurgency and terrorism, which have caused loss of lives and property.
Another Poverty perspective is the Mind Poverty, where person lacks self-esteem, vision, self-discipline, determination, and selflessness. Self-confidence and believe can be a serious prerequisite for success. The limit of what we want to achieve is set by our minds, and if we can control our minds, why do we have to set lower ambitions?
Now, let me ask, if I spend N300 above, does that mean I am not poor. The answer is No, because you may spend more than N1000 in a day, but still be poor. Poverty is multidimensional, because, even people with all the money may still lack access to some basic requirements. Inadequate social amenities make many poorer. With relative access to income, one may still have to pay more to have access to quality education, healthcare, security, water, energy e.t.c., which makes the person poorer. This means inadequate social services resulted from poor governance, corruption and higher cost of governance in many countries is responsible for people’s poverty. So, income measurement of poverty is not always a correct measure.
If social services are adequate, people will only use their personal money to buy food and some direct personal expenditure, which are affordable. So, to eradicate poverty, social services must be provided. For Nigeria to provide adequate social services, N70 trillion has to be expended, and clear targets and roadmap must be set.
Similarly, going by the dollar income poverty threshold, more Nigerians are becoming poorer due to the depreciation of Naira. Since poverty threshold is $1.90, the Nigerian poverty line which used to be N300 has now increased to N760. So, we now have more poor people than before. The wealth of the rich people have also depreciated, as each unit of Naira has reduced in value.
Another reason why poverty increased in Nigeria is inflation. Because, the Nigerian economy is dependent on foreign import, once the Naira depreciates, the cost of import will increase. This will then be reflected in the final price. That is why the Nigerian inflation rate is now approaching 20%. This led to the reduction in the purchasing power of individuals. Since income did not increase, but prices increased, many people will now be downgraded below the poverty line, and we will have more poor people in the country.
The Nigerian Vice President said, there are over 100 million Nigerians who are poor going by income measurement. And MarketMogul estimated that 68% of Nigerians are poor. Majority of the poor people are young people. Young people have higher tendency of becoming poor, because, they are at a transition stage of becoming independent, and they would require resources to set up their family, acquire shelter, and handle additional responsibilities. Unfortunately, many young people could not fulfill their ambition due to endemic poverty. This leads them to frustration, envy and violence. So, this is the day to identify issues bedeviling the young people, and identify solutions.
There is need for a consolidated Poverty index that disaggregates poverty status by age and by dimension. We can set deliberate targets and work to achieving it. If by 2030, Nigeria has to eradicate poverty in all its form, then we have to identify our poverty threshold, and it has to be reviewed timely to accommodate inflation and exchange rate fluctuations.
Averagely, 1 million people are becoming poor in the last 10 years annually. This is expected to increase in the future. So, if we have to eradicate poverty in all its form in the next 15 years, efforts have to be doubled.
One of the tool of eradicating poverty is sustainable production and consumption. Sustainable production is producing goods and services using the minimum amount of factor inputs i.e. efficiency. While sustainable consumption is the consumption that does not undermine the consumption of others and/or in the future. So, both can save resources and preserve the future.
Sustainable consumption is very important especially in Energy. For example, the quantity of fuel that can transport one person to a destination using private vehicles can be used to transport 18 people. So, public transport systems should be in place to ensure efficient use of transport fuels in the economy. This will help reduce the total emissions and conservation of natural resources. Efficiency in the use of appliances and lighting bulbs have to be intensified to save electricity for others.
Similarly, the residential cooking methods are not sustainable, because the minister of environment mentioned that 1.5 million trees are cut down daily in Nigeria, and mostly are used for traditional energy use especially for cooking. So, sustainable energy consumption strategy must be designed in every sector to save more. This will reduce cost of production and bring prices down, and by extension put more people above the poverty line.
Our economy has to be skilled based. Educational institutions must prepare young people to acquire skills that will automatically give them a job or help them to set up businesses. Employment should be accessible to people with skills. Skill is what enable young people to competitively produce, and it is what makes them job creators. Once young people can create their own jobs, they will get out of poverty.
It is necessary to establish a national action against poverty, with active private sector participation, where funds can be collected from various sources and channelled toward eradicating rural and urban poverty in a transparent and accountable manner. Cost of governance have to be reduced and transfer resources to productive sectors by empowering young people to acquire modern and relevant skills of creativity and innovation.
To eradicate poverty in 15 years, child street begging must be eradicated, it is a crime socially and civic wise to send children to the street. Parents responsible must be prosecuted. However, social services must be provided to help household manage their economy easily. This means that adequate access to quality education, health care, water and sanitation, energy etc must be provided.
Mechanism should be place to stop importation of foreign goods and service to protect the local currency and curb inflation. We must not judge our economic status by looking at the nominal GDP, we have to look at the real per-capita wellbeing and income status. We all have to donate and do our part to eradicate the biggest threat to humanity i.e. poverty.
Ahmed Adamu, PhD, a petroleum economist and development expert, was the pioneer chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council, and currently teaches economics at Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina-Nigeria. This article is to commemorate the 2016 International Youth Day