Today is world poverty day. Nigeria has the highest number of poor people in the world, ahead of India, according to a World Bank report.
If you are not among the poor, it is time for sober reflection. Give glory to God if you have a house, can feed three times, have the basic luxuries like car, electronics and have money to pay your bills. Continue to pray that the economic down turn does not drive you out of middle-class.
The government in its first term came up with program to address poverty. But soon N-Power has become unsustainable. People are being owed up to 15 months. Some were being delisted. The N10,000 one off payments to the poor and vulnerable was never repeated again. This is not how to address poverty. Those beneficiaries solved one little problem with money and are poorer today.
Government should look at how China and Brazil addressed poverty. They gave jobs to the people even if the jobs were not needed and continue to pay them.
N-power is a beautiful program but useless as long as the government is not paying.
China gives loan to the poor on self recognition. They don’t need collateral. Only a local leader to identity a person. The money is given with payment default in mind. It didn’t matter to the government as long as the money changed the situation of the beneficiary.
Today, China has successfully wiped out urban poverty. Most of its poor are in rural areas and the government is aggressively addressing rural poverty. The rural poor in China is not facing abject poverty because he can live in good house and feed. He has access to clean water, health care and electricity for 24 hours.
Hunger is the biggest symptom of poverty. China and Brazil created programs that wiped away hunger. School feeding is a good start by the government, but it is abandoned before most states tasted it, so we are back to ground zero.
In Nigeria a lot of people are fast losing their middle-class status. It is not easy living in Nigeria.
We spend money on matters that are supposed to be taken care of by government. I am a reluctant owner of more that 20 generators to power my home and offices. It cost millions to buy them. I pay hospital bills without rebate for myself and many poor relatives. I employ hundreds to provide security to my home and businesses.
Most people are forced to dig boreholes in their homes. It is not easy.
China and Brazil have set a global template for eradicating poverty and the government should follow it strictly. Here are the most important ones.
Raise the minimum wage. This has been under intense negotiations for years, something the government ought to do by fiat.
Increase the Earned Income Tax on the rich and give to the poor.
Give credit to the poor even if they will not pay back.
Support payment of equity allowance. It is money given to workers with intention to reduce wealth imbalance with the rich.
Provide paid leave and paid sick days.
Establish work schedules that will put money in people’s pockets. Watching the railway signal, urban traffic control, community policing, crime reporting and information gathering, patching potholes, etc.
Engage the youth on this and pay them.
Poverty is a bigger disease. It increases rate of sickness in a nation with collapsed primary health care system.
By Aliyu Nuhu