NIGERIA'S REBASED GDP: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

Since this week, I have been psychologically elevated and my Patriotic zeal refired. The news that Nigeria's REBASED nominal GDP has almost doubled from 285 billion dollars to 510 billion dollars is a great tonic to me and I presume to other patriots. Indeed the additional information that Nigeria has advanced to the position of the 26th Largest economy in the World, only six percentage points, shy of our 2020 Vision target got me literarily dancing.
But why are Nigerians not celebrating?Some commentators have asked whether this is real or fantasy. My friend Bismark Rewane has described it as a flight from reality to vanity. I can understand this apparent denial of reality. This story sounds too good to be true. Nigerians are used to reading,hearing and narrating bad news about their Country.Some, actually love to hear bad news about the Nation. The reason, I can not tell.If the news was that we had declined in GDP or have receded in our ranking, many commentators would have been celebrating, berating the Nation in their characteristic past time. But that we are now the largest economy in Africa is not reverberating. If this news was about South Africa or Ghana, there would have been elaborate commomeration in Jo'burg and Accra.
But I am celebrating,though every commentator had cautioned me against celebrating. Even the senior government officials who presented the good news made some 'effort' to discourage any celebration perhaps to minimize any rise in expectations or to preempt the anticipated opposition or nay Sayers who would readily read politics into what is purely economic reality. Iam enthused for many reasons. First, as a proud Nigerian, I am pleased that my beloved, though beleaguered Country is in the news for good. Indeed in the Global news. Every international medium has carried the news in the last week that Nigeria's economy has overtaken that of South Africa to become the biggest in Africa. We are therefore not only the fastest growing economy but now also the biggest in Africa. That gladdens my heart and makes me feel good.

For long, some commentators have said Nigeria was big for nothing and that our large population was only good at consumption, and that we produced nothing but oil. Even other smaller African Countries encouraged by our own over critical press jeered at us as all the data ever released about Nigeria was adverse. Secondly, as Past Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group( NESG),People have asked me without break, what we had achieved for the 21 years we have held the Nigerian Economic Summits(NES). I had said that our greatest achievement has been the the ability to influence the government to diversify and open up the economy, through deregulation, commercialization and Privitisation. Today, Telecommunications, the flagship of our deregulation policy contributes 9% of our GDP from 0% in I990. With Services now contributing 52% of our GDP, it is clear that efforts to diversify the economy over the years is yielding fruits.

Thirdly, I have spent the greater part of my working life in Manufacturing, and have grown sick with the abysmal low level of contribution of manufacturing to GDP of between 2-4%. With the rebasing, we can see the impact of the increased activities in manufacturing - cement, flour, agro products, leather work, pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics and basic consumer products which have moved us to a better 7% of GDP. At one time, some even argued that given the very low contribution of manufacturing, may be Nigeria should discontinue all manufacturing and focus on the areas contributing some thing significant to our GDP. Now such morbid thoughts will have no foundation to stand on and you say I should not be glad.

Fourthly, the World is now better able to see the different promising sectors of the Nigerian economy and the promise they hold and should therefore elicit more interest. Certainly there will be an appreciable impact on investments in the Country going forward . Fifthly,Nigeria will assume greater respect in the international community. Should a meeting of the G26 be called today, Nigeria will be in the league. Seriously Nigeria will be better respected and it's voice listened to more intently in World Affairs than hitherto. After all, why has China garnered a lot of global attention and respect in the last ten years or so?. It is essentially because of its galloping growth that has brought it to be the the second largest economy in the World today, only behind the USA.

Sixthly, though the REBASED GDP does not automatically translate to more money in the pockets of Nigerians, it is gratifying that our per capita income has jumped from 1500 dollars to 2,688 dollars. That increases the worth of every Nigerian and again has a positive impact on the attractiveness of Nigeria to investors( foreign or domestic) as it indicates purchasing power potentials. Seventhly, it motivates the government that its efforts over the years have yielded something positive. Yes the governments( past and present) have not done everything right, but it true that they have done certain things right and Nigerians must be charitable to accord them the Honour for those things done rightly. The REBASED GDP throws up some of the areas that government policies have had positive impact, Telecoms and manufacturing for example. Conversely it shows up areas where more work is needed, Power for example which is yet to contribute meaningfully to the GDP. Perhaps at the 2015 rebasing, we may see Power contributing much more if the current Investments and restructuring are carried through.

Eight, the creativity of Nigerians shone bright in the REBASED GDP. Did any one imagine that Entertainment which is essentially indigenous could yield 854 billion( 1.4%) to the 2013 GDP. That must be rewarding news to our Nollywood entrepreneurs and actors and our musicians and comedians. I believe that it will not only motivate them to do more, it will spur the development of other indigenous business sectors like Arts and culture, literature,pottery,painting and sculpture,areas that Nigerians can readily excel.

I could go on and on to justify why I think that we need to be happy about the REBASED GDP. The point I am making is that we must cheer our Country and our selves when something good happens to our Country. Though several challenges still face us as aNation, though we expect much more from our governments( Federal, State and local Governments), though we still have high unemployment, though we are facing severe security challenges, the point must be made that many things are going well for our Nation. One and very important one at that is that our Economy has grown and expanded and that we have the largest GDP in the entire African Continent and the 26 largest Economy in the whole World. If that is not good news, I am sorry!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa ofr.

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