Forthcoming elections seem to be uppermost in the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari, going by his 2019 New Year message. The President, made no mention of his plans for the economy in the new year, referring vaguely twice to progress made twice in the 586 word speech.
“NIGERIANS DESIRE PEACE, SECURITY, PROSPERITY, INCLUSIVENESS AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT, A NATION THEY CAN BE PROUD OF, A COUNTRY THAT CAN HOLD ITS OWN AMONG THE NATIONS.THAT IS THE JOURNEY WE HAVE EMBARKED ON SINCE WE CAME ONBOARD IN 2015, AND WE ARE NOT DISTRACTED AS WE MOVE ON.”
Towards the end of the speech, he again reiterated this point.
“I CAN ASSURE YOU ALL THAT WE ARE MAKING STEADY AND SUSTAINABLE PROGRESS IN ALL AREAS OF NATIONAL LIFE. THOSE WHO ARE UNBIASED CAN SEE AND APPRECIATE THE PROGRESS THE COUNTRY HAS MADE SINCE 2015.”
The numbers tell a different story
While the President maintained his administration had made rapid progress, the figures pertaining to the economy tell a different story.
Unemployment spiked from 8.19% in the second quarter of 2015 when his administration was sworn in, to 23.13% as at the third quarter of 2018 with 20.9 million people unemployed.
While the economy slipped and recovered from a recession within this period, the high figures are an indication growth remains quite weak.
Growth remains weak
Though the economy is forecast to have a full year GDP growth rate of between 1.7% to 1.8% in 2018, this is far below the country’s high in recent past as well as population growth rate of 2.6%.
GDP figures for Q1 2018 stood at 1.95%, dropped to 1.50% in the second quarter before rebounding to 1.81 in the third quarter of 2018.
Poverty remains high
The Bill and Melinda Foundation in its goalkeepers report released last year predicted that by 2050, about 152 million Nigerians will be extremely poor out of her projected population of 429 million people.
Markets take the same view
While the President may be optimistic about progress made so far, foreign investors have an alternate view. The Nigerian Stock Exchange closed 2018 on a negative note, down 17.81%. In 2017, the markets had closed up by over 40%, following stability in the foreign exchange markets, which drew back foreign investors.
A combination of rising US interest rates, a potential trade war between the United States and China, as well as concerns over the forthcoming elections have led to foreign investors staying on the sidelines. Foreign investors account for roughly 50% of market activity on the NSE.