Worried by the rising cost of goods and services in the country, particularly food prices, the World Bank Group in Nigeria has advised the Federal Government to take appropriate measures to reduce high cost of goods and services in the country.
The global bank warned that if proper policy measures are not put in place to mitigate this trend, it will push additional one million Nigerians into poverty which may aggravate the poverty level to seven million by the end of 2022.
In a report by the World Bank Nigeria Development Update titled “The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual” obtained by AssurPen Online released last week said “The rate of changes in prices of goods in Nigeria was already one of the highest in the world before the war in Ukraine, this the report noted, will push an additional one million Nigerians into poverty meaning by the end of 2022, seven million Nigerians would have joined the poverty rank.
The World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaidhuri, said “Nigeria is in a paradoxical situation; growth prospects have improved compared to six months ago butinflationary and fiscal pressures have increased considerably, leaving the economy much more vulnerable. According to the Bank “Inflation in Nigeria, already one of the highest in the world before the war in Ukraine, is likely to increase further as a result of the rise in global fuel and food prices caused by the war. And that, it estimates, is likely to push an additional one million Nigerians into poverty by the end of 2022, on top of the 6 million Nigerians that were already predicted to fall into poverty this year because of the rise in prices, particularly food prices.
“This latest edition of the NDU highlights that the inflationary pressures will be compounded by the fiscal pressures Nigeria will face this year because of the ballooning cost of gasoline subsidies at a time when oil production continues to decline. Hence, Nigeria, for the first time since its return to democracy, and alone amongst major oil exporters, is unlikely to benefit fiscally from the windfall opportunity created by higher global oil prices.” Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said, “When we launched our previous Nigeria Development Update in November 2021, we estimated that Nigeria could stand to lose more than N3 trillion in revenues in 2022 because the proceeds from crude oil sales, instead of going to the federation account, would be used to cover the rising cost of gasoline subsidies that mostly benefit the rich. Sadly, that projection turned out to be optimistic.
“With oil prices going up significantly, and with it, the price of imported gasoline, we now estimate that the foregone revenues as a result of gasoline subsidies will be closer to N5 trillion in 2022. And that 5 trillion is urgently needed to cushion ordinary Nigerians from the crushing effect of double-digit increases in the cost of basic commodities, to invest in Nigeria’s children and youth, and in the infrastructure needed for private businesses small and large to flourish, grow and create jobs.” According to the report, Nigeria’s growing macroeconomic challenges in 2022 highlights the continuing urgency of a departure from business as usual, and the need for consensus around a package of robust reforms.
The Report highlights three policy priorities that government should focus on to address the situation. The areas are: reducing inflation through a sequenced and coordinated mix of exchange rate, trade, monetary, and fiscal policies including the adoption of a single, market-responsive exchange rate; addressing mounting fiscal pressures at the federal and sub-national levels by phasing out the petrol subsidy (estimated to cost up to 5 trillion naira in 2022) and redirecting fiscal resources to investments in infrastructure, education, and health services; increasing “pro-health taxes”, and improving tax compliance and catalyzing private investment to boost job creation by improving the transparency of key government-to-business services and eliminating trade restrictions.