It’s not yet social protection
By Kayode Komolafe
0805 500 1974
The federal government has proposed to spend 863 billion naira for social investment and poverty eradication in next year’s budget. This represents 5.3% of the total budget.
About two months ago, the secretary of the same government, Boss Mustapha, said: âThis administration commits more than 400 billion naira per year on all the government’s national social investment programs aimed at empowering our people and lift millions of people out of poverty.
Funds are spent on micro-lending interventions, cash transfers, skills training, enterprise and empowerment, and school feeding programs. With a proposal of 863 billion naira, it is to be expected that the coverage of these programs will be doubled if the federal government can achieve its social investment projection in next year’s budget.
However, just four months ago, the government’s announcement that 10.2 million people were lifted out of poverty appeared to contradict World Bank data that the additional seven million Nigerians had been pushed under. the poverty line at about the same time. It is certainly a more serious matter than to say that it is a simple case of “different people, different blows”.
Indeed, in another dimension, the quantitative quarrels between the experts seemed unrelated to the quality of life observable in the street. Non-experts can only tell the real stories of hunger, unemployment and misery, regardless of official misery figures.
The point of divergence is the following: while in measuring poverty some experts take into account the volume of money put into people’s pockets through social investments, others seem to measure poverty through access to basic needs – food, clean water, health, education and housing. The first is closer to the position of the federal government while the second appears to be the position of the World Bank.
However, there is a prospect that in terms of actual impact, there may not be a substantial difference between the data released by the federal government and that of the World Bank.
The corollary of the above reflection is that Nigeria is still a long way from achieving social protection for the most vulnerable segment of the population despite remarkable efforts in social investment. After all, we are not talking about social protection in a system that is sorely lacking in scientifically formulated and implemented policies to fight poverty and the risks associated with the disruption of income on which families depend. Women, children and people with disabilities are particularly affected when social vulnerability is heightened.
As is universally the case, the situation is made worse by the appalling impact of socio-economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
In other words, Nigeria faces the enormous challenge of social protection like many other countries. This is shown by the World Social Protection Report 2020-22 with the theme: âSocial protection at a crossroads – In pursuit of a better futureâ.
Significantly, the document is the flagship report of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency responsible for the world of work.
For example, part of the report that may be of interest to policy makers and the public reads: âCountries are at a crossroads in the trajectory of their social protection systems. If there is a silver lining to the crisis, it is a powerful reminder that it has provided the critical importance of investing in social protection, but many countries also face severe budget constraints. (The) report shows that almost all countries, regardless of their level of development, have the choice between pursuing a “high road” strategy of investing in strengthening their social protection systems or a “low-road” strategy. of minimalist supply, to fiscal pressures. “
The importance of the above is simply that in many ways Nigeria can learn from the experiences of other economies.
The anarchy that followed the peaceful #ENDSARS protests a year ago could in part be explained by the revelation of glaring inequalities in the Nigerian system by the coronavirus pandemic. The period of confinement revealed the extreme vulnerability of the poorest segments of society. Those who live on daily income found themselves without income. Those who had no income even before the coronavirus epidemic found themselves in more desperate situations. Despite the palliatives of governments, private organizations and public-minded individuals, hunger was evident in the streets. Warehouses were looted and food was happily “freed” by hungry and angry people.
Little is remembered now that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development implemented the feeding aspect of the program in poor households, even during lockdown.
Thus, apart from cash transfers, social protection would be achieved when the appropriate mix of socio-economic policies could result in massive job creation, universal health coverage, access to quality public education, among other elements. of the common good.
There now seems to be a consensus across the ideological spectrum that the worsening insecurity in the land is a consequence of the worsening poverty of the majority of the population. It is proof that physical security cannot be maintained in a socio-economic atmosphere devoid of social security. For decades, largely progressive views have been raised in vain to establish the dialectical link between physical security and social security. For example, there is a link between the large population of out-of-school children and the ease with which terrorists and other criminals recruit their infantry to wreak havoc on society.
In addition, the implementing agencies should be better institutionalized. Take a sample. There should be something to borrow from the idea of ââthe People’s Bank in implementing the empowerment and enterprise component of the policy.
It is therefore fortunate that the Minister of Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk, spoke last month about the efforts to review and restructure the National Social Investment Programs (NSIPS). The expansion of the Government Enterprise Program (GEEP) and N-Power is one example. The number of beneficiaries of N-Power has been increased to one million. GEEP is also in the process of refocusing. TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni exclusively target helpless youth, disadvantaged women and peasants. GEEP 2.0 was also restructured to provide low-interest loans and skills training to an additional million beneficiaries. There are other innovations that would require partnering with other agencies in the health and education sectors to expand plan coverage. One of them is the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS). A USSD short code * 46665 # is also introduced to improve communication in the system. Providing timely information to beneficiaries is undoubtedly essential to the success of programs.
Yet in many well-informed circles, leaving the ministry may still appear symbolic in light of the massive poverty in the country. Even camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) are still hungry. The World Food Program warned last week that unless a $ 197 million lifeline is provided, an estimated 4.4 million people could face famine in northeastern Nigeria. here July of next year.
The structural deficiencies of social investment programs are rooted in its ambiguous origins as a policy. Senior members of the administration initially treated the concept of social investments, especially cash transfers, with contempt. At first the administration was apparently ambivalent about the policy and this affected the implementation. Only two years ago the omnibus ministry was created and Hajia Farouk was appointed prime minister.
No doubt politics still suffers from a serious disarticulation. The government should further explain the concept and operations to the public. After years of implementation, even public intellectuals still appear on television either to deny the existence of the program or to poop it. The articulation challenge is therefore quite clear in this regard. The government should engage not only with the beneficiaries, but also with the general public on the functioning of the programs in the search for improvements.
In addition, there should be a more inclusive deployment of the technology to make the implementation more efficient. Special attention should be paid to those who live in rural areas.
Above all, the implementation must be fraud-proof. Officials should be wary of those who might want to corrupt the process, even at the lowest level of implementation. Honesty of purpose is the greatest asset the program should aspire to acquire
As experts from various backgrounds attest, social protection is undeniably at the heart of any credible strategy for poverty reduction and the fight against inequalities.
This is why the worsening inequalities in the system must be addressed within the framework of economic development efforts.
Of course, social security and other poverty reduction measures are real means of empowering populations so that they are real economic actors. The man who received 5,000 N per month would at least embark on an effective demand. It would be impossible without any income at all. Social protection should therefore be a yardstick for the success of economic recovery beyond abstract statistics of growth rates and Fitch ratings. Economic growth should not be viewed in isolation from the growing inequalities in the country. It is suggested that our economic thinkers should think more about it.
It wouldn’t be surprising if our ever-cynical neo-liberals dismiss the budget allocation for social investment as yet another case of “throwing money for problems” or simply putting people out of work. Such an easy proposition should be belied by the right policy measures. The challenge for the Buhari administration is to follow the path of social protection by making well-structured and institutionalized social investments as part of its legacy.