Poverty and government in deficit
AREWA AGENDA- IN economics, we learn a little about balance of trade. This can either be surplus or negative. A surplus is when a country’s export value is greater than its import and a deficit occurs when the country becomes a major consumer leading to higher import and lower or zero export.
As the name implies, a deficit will do a lot of damage to the economy or balance of trade as a whole. This may likely affect a country’s per capita income in the long run. Yes, this may not be the only factor but it may contribute to it.
When a country continues to run at a deficit, the tendency or urge to borrow will increase over time. A borrower, they say, is often at the mercy of the lender. Borrowing may enhance the influence of poverty over the country or citizens’ value.
Poverty, when it becomes fully blown, does a lot of damage to the individual’s psyche. Thinking pattern and worldview of a very poor person is often pitiable. A poor person has little choice to pick from.
A poor person’s life can be cut short with stuff that should not. An insignificant disease that can be treated fast with little or no money will become epidemic with a capacity to destroy thousands of lives in a blink of an eye.
A poor family often longs for the good things of life without fulfilment. Decision-making processes are often affected by inability to ‘send money on an errand’.
Nigeria’s situation has not been different from the outlook presented above. Since 2015, Nigerians have been ‘romancing’ the singsong: ‘Nigeria is running on deficit.’ Oil prices dropped sharply, and since this is what the nation depends on heavily, everything had taken a nosedive.
Quality of life on the street has been moving from bad to worse although Nigerians keep hearing of billions of Naira being shared to alleviate the poverty in the land.
Nigerians were told that Northerners became major beneficiaries of these palliatives because the region is the worst hit. But pray, a journey through the Northern region did not show any evidence of a change that citizens had been promised.
Things seemed alright until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year. Nigerians and Africans at large were lucky enough as the first wave did not do the level of damage the naysayers forecasted.
There were no dead bodies on the streets, among other predictions. But while some advanced nations decided to lock-down for safety reasons, Nigerian government tried to do same but could not sustain such luxury.
Nigeria tried the first two weeks of lock-down but as the second two weeks lock-down was introduced in the middle of April 2020, it became obvious that it was not practicable.
The level of poverty in the land and the reality that majority of the people live from hand to mouth, through daily earnings, made continued lock-down ineffective.
Many of the affected citizens, especially in Lagos, began to rob and maim others whom they perceived were better than them. Government had to quickly stop the lock-down rule while trying hard to mitigate the effects of poverty in the land.
A poor mindset, wherever it is found, is a huge liability. While many advanced nations took good care of their citizens during the lock-down with lots of support measures, our own palliatives found their way into the storehouses of notable politicians. It took the EndSARS confusion for Nigerians to see the level of depravity poor mindset had caused the so-called politicians who should use their positions to alleviate the problems of the downtrodden.
The second wave of the COVID-19 is doing a great damage in Nigeria and Africa. The second wave seems deadlier and affects almost everyone. Poor and the middle class, if that truly exists, inclusive.
Hospitals are now filled to the brim. Our health capacity and infrastructure are overstretched. The pandemic is ravaging like wild fire and it is killing more in terms of numbers than its first outbreak.
Few private health institutions with little capacity to handle the pandemic had become shylock over time. Private health institutions in the urban centres, from inception, had never been pocket-friendly. Bills are given based on where you work or patient’s economic status rather than being based on the disease.
I have been authoritatively informed that a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 has to part with a minimum of N3.5 million deposit for admission. Where would an average Nigerian get this? So the numbers of death continued to be on the rise, but this is usually under reported. What a shame of a nation!
Government had considered and threatened a lock-down but that seems like the barking of a toothless bulldog. While other countries with enough power to provide basic amenities for the entire citizenry had declared a lock-down, Nigerian government knows the implication of lock-down, so the best option for being in deficit is to allow people to die in droves.
The question is: How long shall this continue? Why is it difficult for the present administration, which has been in power since 2015, to find a remedy to the deficit till date?
How long will Nigerians keep hoping for better days while the best of its brains are leaving the country daily for greener pastures and the remaining are allowed to die cheaply?
By Yinka Olaito
Arewa Agenda is a publication of young writers and journalists from Northern Nigeria geared towards peaceful coexistence and national development through positive narratives.