The Economics of Population – By Arnold A. AlaliboArnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists Saturday, March 4th, 2017
By Arnold A. Alalibo | NNP | March 4, 2017 –
Nigeria’s population has become an embarrassment that cannot be hidden anymore. A population time bomb is dangling on the country waiting to detonate unless urgent preventive measures are taken. A similar fear was equally expressed by the Director of Monetary Policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Moses Tule, at the 40th Annual Conference of Nigerian Statistical Association in Abuja.
The director stated the obvious when he said that Nigeria’s population had become a liability and would remain so unless it expands its economic base by stimulating the economy and producing the needed goods and services to sustain it and create jobs. Surprisingly, while population is growing at the rate of 3.5 percent, economic growth rate is a paltry 2.5 percent. Common sense should sound it anyone that our situation is quite unpalatable. On no account should population register a higher growth level than the economy. This development is called “negative growth”.
Several figures have been bandied or speculated as Nigeria’s population. Some have said the population is 150 million while others project 170 million. But a recent United Nations population estimate in March 2016 put Nigeria’s current size at 186 million and the 7th most populous country in the world. The same United Nations survey stated 18 as the median age. This indicates that the country has a largely youth and dynamic population which has potentiality for great attainments if harnessed and impelled. But going by the UN figure, it is explicit that those who put our population at between 150 and 170 million have grossly underestimated it.
A situation where population grows at a geometric progression while the economy grows arithmetically bespeaks doom. Our predicament is further worsened by our dismal performance in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, MDG. We are unable to meet the basic requirement to be regarded as a nation with a growing economy. We have failed in the provision of food security, basic education, shelter, job creation and poverty eradication. Our inability to provide infrastructure and social services in proportion with our huge population is glaring for all to see.
Nothing could describe our perverse condition than the disproportionate number of applicants who apply for job vacancies. For instance, about three months ago, the Nigeria Police declared 10,000 job vacancies and more than a million applications were received. These shortfalls speak volumes of our population and planlessness.
For most countries, huge population symbolizes strength. Unfortunately, many people in this part of the world view large population as economic encumbrance. Both China and India have, however, debunked this position with their huge and creative population. If large population is an economic evil, China would not have been great economically and technologically. At the last count, China was credited with the highest world reserve. If large population is less advantageous, India would not have been a leading manufacturing country and a destination for medical tourists.
The problem with Nigeria, therefore, is not its growing population. Rather, it is the lack of a productive one and a failure to plan. The current economic crunch has revealed that planlessness not population has brought us to our knees. If we prepared for the rainy day when crude oil sold for $140 per barrel we would not have been in this mess. So, we have to do something not just about our growing size, but the quality of our population. First, we must take politics out of our census and conduct credible head count. It is sad indeed that Nigeria’s population is not based on presumptive census but on speculations by international organizations and individuals.
Second, we can improve the quality of our population by education. This is where the most populous countries in the world have got it right. They have educated and productive population that has proved to be viable economic asset to them. Also, the segmentation of our population to determine the categories of citizens is imperative. For instance, we have to get precise figures of children in school, out of school, unemployed youths, the aged etc. beside the unverifiable figures that are being mooted?
Finally, the Nigerian government must invest massively in infrastructure as it has always promised to stimulate the economy and ensure the flow of liquidity. This will create jobs while the better part of the population will be productive. I believe a large population like ours can be an asset if it is economically viable and demographic.
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