The World Bank has sounded a note of warning to the Bola Tinubu-led federal government.
This is as it disclosed that four million Nigerians were pushed into poverty in the first six months of this year, with another 7.1 million more expected to join the poverty trap if fuel subsidy removal isn’t managed well.
The institution made the disclosure in Abuja, during the launch of the Nigeria Development Update (NDU).
Dissecting the NDU, the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the report, Alex Sienaert, said four million more Nigerians were pushed into poverty in the first half of 2023.
“Without compensation, many households could be pushed into poverty by higher petrol prices and forced to resort to coping mechanisms with long-term adverse consequences, such as not sending children to school, or not going to health facilities to seek preventative healthcare.” the world Bank report stated
To build on the immediate, major reforms, and seize the opportunity to rise to its potential, Nigeria still has other urgent choices to make.”
“In the first part of 2023, Nigeria’s economic growth weakened, and real gross domestic product (GDP) growth fell from 3.3 per cent in 2022 to 2.4 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) in Q1 2023.
“The challenging global economic context has put pressure on Nigeria’s economy. However, domestic policies play the major role in determining Nigeria’s economic performance and resilience to further external shocks.
“The previous mix of fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies, including the naira redesign program, did not deliver the desired improvements in growth, inflation and economic resilience.
“The new government has recognised the need to chart a new course and has already made a start on critical reforms, such as the elimination of the petrol subsidy and reforms in the FX market.
“With the petrol subsidy removal, the government is projected to achieve fiscal savings of approximately N2 trillion in 2023, equivalent to 0.9 per cent of GDP.
“These savings are expected to reach over N11 trillion by the end of 2025. However, compensating transfers will be essential to help shield the most vulnerable Nigerian households from the initial price impacts of the subsidy reform, as without compensation, many households could be pushed into poverty by higher petrol prices and have to resort to coping mechanisms with long-term adverse consequences.”
It added: “Similarly, the move to harmonise the FX windows will help to improve the efficiency of the FX market, unlock private investment, and reduce inflationary pressures, but it is crucial to complete this important reform by removing FX restrictions, clearly communicating how the new FX regime will operate, and implementing supportive monetary and fiscal policies.
“The current move by the government to implement long-anticipated reforms such as the removal of costly and opaque petrol subsidy, and efforts to harmonise the multiple FX windows, are timely and crucial to set Nigeria on the path of economic growth.”
“Persistently high inflation and low fiscal revenues continue to hinder economic growth. It remains imperative to change course, as sluggish economic growth risks becoming deeply entrenched through low investment due to weak macroeconomic conditions, escalating poverty, and fragility.
“The removal of the petrol subsidy and the FX reforms have opened a window of opportunity that, if effectively seized by sustaining and building on these reforms, could have a transformative impact on the lives of millions of Nigerians and establish a solid foundation for sustained growth,” the World Bank report stated.