Amaechi Ogbonna, Bali, Indonesia.
Several months after the Federal Government pledged to share the nation’s recovered stolen funds to its economically active poor across the country, Nigeria again retained an unenviable distinction of being at the bottom of World Bank report on inequality Index for the second year in a row as its social spending on health, education and social protection was described as shamefully low, resulting in very poor social outcomes for the citizens.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had last July, said that an estimated $322million loot recovered from late Head of State, General Sani Abacha’s accounts in Switzerland would be distributed to poor households through its Conditional Cash Transfer scheme.
But the second edition of a report, “Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI)” Index conducted by the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group in collaboration with Oxfam, released at the ongoing meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, revealed that while countries like South Korea, Namibia and Uruguay, are taking strong steps to reduce inequality, Nigeria and India among others nations, did very badly in the same regard, having shown brazen lack of commitment to stamp out inequality among their citizens.
According to the report, one in 10 children in Nigeria does not reach their fifth birthday, and more than 10 million children do not go to school at all, with 60 per cent of these being girls.
The report also noted that despite its rising inflation over the years, Nigerian workers minimum wage has remained static since 2011, while social spending has stagnated.
On the consequences of government’s failure to reduce extreme inequality gap, the World Bank said it reduces economic growth, threatens women’s rights, and worsens health and other outcomes.
“Each year, 100 million people are driven below the poverty line by having to pay for healthcare. Almost 70 million young people are working but still living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $2 a day. Women make up the majority of the world’s low-paid workers, getting by on wages that leave them trapped in a cycle of poverty,” the report stated
On policy recommendations to help the Buhari administration and others reduce their poverty gap, the report said,
“We believe that the inequality crisis is not inevitable and that governments have the power to defeat it. In 2015, 193 countries promised to reduce inequality as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
It, therefore, advised that all countries should develop national inequality action plans to achieve SDGs 10, on reducing inequality by implementing policies that include delivery of universal public and free health and education as well as universal social floors which should be funded by increasingly progressive taxation, a clampdown on tax evasion and waivers.
The report called on the Nigerian and countries caught in this vicious web of rising inequality to raise their minimum wages to living wages and empower more women through policy interventions.