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Still grappling with poverty despite plenty

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IN a recently released unemployment and underemployment data by the National Bureau of Statistics, Anambra State recorded the lowest rate of unemployment at 13.1 per cent and the lowest underemployment rate, with 17 per cent in Q2 2020 among the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. While the report portrayed evidence of the gradual but steady work done by various administrations of the state since she attained statehood to eliminate underemployment and bring unemployment to its barest minimum, the need for improvement and not to relent on the already gained advantage was made known also through a report of the National Bureau of Statistics as the state’s poverty rate rose to 14 per cent.

  These reports from the National Bureau of Statistics call for an introspective study of the two phenomena. It should be a concern for both the public and private sectors that while unemployment is being reduced, the poverty rate of the people of the state is gaining momentum. It is a concern that while most citizens and residents of the state are engaged in one work or the other, yet many barely survive.

  The United Nations had described poverty as a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. Poverty, it noted, depends not only on income but also on access to services. Also, the World Bank set the poverty benchmark of having an income below $1.90 while the 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty index (MPI) data and publication released by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme listed the major dimensions of poverty and their indicators to include; Health (nutrition, child mortality), Education (Years of school, school attendance), Standard of Living (cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing and assets).

  While the state has over the years, through various government activities and policies focused on agriculture, health, education, housing and transportation, more hands need to be on deck as more work is needed. In the agricultural sector, the state government has taken the bull by the horn by ensuring loans and grants are given to farmers to ensure productivity. In some occasions, the government has entered into partnership with private owned agro-allied industries like Coscharis Farms Ltd to ensure food security and productivity. These policies have not transformed the agricultural sector as it still struggles to yield the desired result as the demand for produce still outweighs supply. With much demand for available produce in the market, the prices of goods are high that the purchasing power of low income earners cannot meet up. On the other hand, Anambra State with her population density is disadvantaged by her landmass and erosion menace. Efforts should be made to provide and improve storage facilities in other to reduce waste of agricultural produce.

  The introduction of the Anambra Health Insurance by the government of the state shows her concern in the provision of quality healthcare for her people. In other times, the state engages her health workforce to give vaccines to children. In partnership with non-governmental organisations, the government engages in the sensitisation of her people especially in the rural areas; always visiting the hospitals and clinics provided to reduce fatalities resulting from health complications. For the riverine areas of the state, water ambulances have been provided for emergency medical care. The education sector has been the state’s strong point. Due to the revolution imbued in her education system, positive results have continued to grow by leaps and bounds. Despite that, there are school children who are out of school as a result of financial constraint.

  Other factors that could contribute to the state’s heavily poverty rate despite achieving success in tackling unemployment. These factors include social habits, lifestyles and values of the people, poor remuneration for the workforce, state’s policies and implementation and environmental disasters.

  The people of the state possess an age-long tradition of organising flambouyant parties. From burial, marriage ceremonies to child-naming ceremonies, there is the urge to organise big parties which must live up to the expectation of the public and outclass that of the neighbor. To organise such parties and celebrations, the low income earners usually source for loans which are beyond their financial strengths and this in turn, push them into penury as some resort to borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

  Due to the high rate of available workforce, most workers are underpaid by industrialists and other employers of labour. Most public and private employers of labour pay their employees below the minimum wage signed into law by the federal government. As to this, they struggle to provide food, shelter and other basic amenities. Also, some of the state policies and eventual implementations have struggled to address the root causes. Anambra State hosts many start-up businesses but most do not survive up to two years as a result of the fraudulent activities of her tax officers and agents.

  Environmental disasters such as flooding and erosion menace have continued to drive citizens of the state into poverty. In most cases, houses, schools, farmlands and businesses are lost as a result of these hazards.  Also, the cost of living in the state has become very alarming especially in the urban areas where house rents, transportation and other basic needs are on the rise.

  To minimize and to attain eventual eradication of poverty in the state, the government and the private sectors must work hand in hand to achieve the aim. Government policies must be intentional in protecting and promoting small and medium scale enterprises. The state must judiciously set-up economic teams to set and monitor the price benchmark for goods and services. Also, the government should improve and expand on safety net policies such as scholarships and bursaries. The state should endeavour to provide housing units that will be affordable to low-income earners. The government’s subsidised transport system should be extended to nongovernment workers the rural areas of the state provided they show evidences of tax payments. 

  The state should equally diversify her focus from agricultural mercantilism, trade and commerce and encourage information, communication and technology sector by setting up technology hubs for start-ups as to drive investments as showcased by the recently released Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product by the National Bureau of Statistics where the sector contributed 17.83 per cent of the GDP in the second quarter of 2020.

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