World Bank Exposes Buhari on Human Capital Development

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

The Buhari administration appears to have made some progress in socio-economic terms in recent years. But, its human capital development, according to the World Bank, ranked 150 of 157 countries in the Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index.

For the Bank, human capital is the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives. It is a central driver of sustainable growth and poverty reduction. More human capital is associated with higher earnings for people, higher income for countries, and stronger cohesion in societies.

Much of the hard-won human capital gains in many economies over the past decade is at risk of being eroded by the menacing COVID-19 pandemic. While urgent action is still needed to protect these advances, particularly among the poor and vulnerable, designing the needed interventions, targeting them to achieve the highest effectiveness, and navigating difficult trade-offs make investing in better measurement of human capital now more important than ever.

The Human Capital Index (HCI) is therefore, an international metric that benchmarks the key components of human capital across economies. It was launched in 2018 as part of the Human Capital Project, a global effort to accelerate progress toward a world where all children can achieve their full potential.

Measuring the human capital that children born today can expect to attain by their 18th birthdays, the HCI highlights how current health and education outcomes shape the productivity of the next generation of workers and underscores the importance of government and societal investments in human capital. The Human Capital Index 2020 Update: Human Capital in the Time of COVID-19 presents the first update of the HCI, using health and education data available as of March 2020.

It documents new evidence on trends, examples of successes, and analytical work on the utilization of human capital. The new data—collected before the global onset of COVID-19—can act as a baseline to track its effects on health and education outcomes.

The report highlights how better measurement is essential for policy makers to design effective interventions and target support. In the immediate term, investments in better measurement and data use can inform pandemic containment strategies and support for those who are most affected.

In the medium term, better curation and use of administrative, survey, and identification data can guide policy choices in an environment of limited fiscal space and competing priorities. In the longer term, the hope is that economies will be able to do more than simply recover ground lost during the current crisis.

Ambitious, evidence-driven policy measures in health, education, and social protection can pave the way for today’s children to surpass the human capital achievements and quality of life of the generations that preceded them.

Human Capital Project (HCP) has been one in which countries have struggled to stem their losses. COVID-19 has both disrupted and caused devastating setbacks to lives and livelihoods. Globally, we have lost an estimated decade worth of gains in human capital outcomes.

With over 255 million jobs equivalent erased and 1.6 billion children out of school at the peak of school closures, poverty is set to significantly increase for the first time in 20 years, particularly in low-income countries and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The poor and vulnerable have also endured the hardship of natural disasters and conflict. In the face of these challenges, we are more committed than ever to help countries invest optimally in their people, prevent hard-won human capital gains from being eroded further, and build back better to ensure green, resilient and inclusive development.

Human capital has been adopted as a special theme for the 20th replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA-20). The HCP network has grown to 82 countries and, even in this unique year of travel bans and social distancing, we have maintained a high level of engagement through online ministerial conclaves and global forums, multilingual knowledge exchange webinars including on COVID-19 strategies, knowledge products, and country-specific case studies of successful human capital interventions.

Undoubtedly, Nigeria under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, continues to face massive developmental challenges, including the need to reduce the dependency on oil and diversify the economy, address insufficient infrastructure, build strong and effective institutions, as well as address governance issues and public financial management systems.

‘’Inequality, in terms of income and opportunities, remains high and has adversely affected poverty reduction. The lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional inequality, and social and political unrest. High inflation has also taken a toll on household’s welfare and high prices in 2020 are likely to have pushed an additional 7 million Nigerians into poverty in 2020’’, the World Bank says.

Continuing, the Bank said in 2020, the country experienced its deepest recession in two decades, but growth resumed in 2021 as pandemic restrictions were eased, oil prices recovered, and the authorities implemented policies to counter the economic shock.

‘’Nigeria was highly vulnerable to the global economic disruption caused by COVID-19, particularly due to the decline in oil prices. Oil accounts for over 80 percent of exports, a third of banking sector credit, and half of government revenues.

‘’In 2018, 40% of Nigerians (83 million people) lived below the poverty line, while another 25% (53 million) were vulnerable. The number of Nigerians living below the international poverty line is expected to rise by 12 million in 2019–23.

‘’As part of its COVID-19 response, the government carried out long-delayed policy reforms in 2020. Notably, it: (i) began to harmonize exchange rates; (ii) initiated reforms to eliminate gasoline subsidies; (iii) adjusted electricity tariffs to more cost-reflective levels; (iv) cut non-essential spending; and (v) enhanced debt management and increased transparency in the public sector, especially for oil and gas operations.

‘’The COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt Nigeria’s labor market. While it now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, improvements have been primarily due to workers turning to small-scale, non-farm enterprise activities in retail and trade, the revenues of which remain precarious.

‘’Nigeria’s economic outlook remains highly uncertain. Uncertainty around the pace of vaccinations and the duration of COVID-19 persists. Moreover, the modest projected recovery can be threatened by volatility in the oil sector, including an unexpected shock to oil prices, and weaknesses in the financial sector. Even in the most favorable global context, the policy response of Nigeria’s authorities will be crucial to lay the foundation for a robust recovery’’, the Bank says.

Nigeria is however, a multi-ethnic and culturally diverse federation of 36 autonomous states and the Federal Capital Territory. The political landscape is partly dominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress party (APC) which controls the executive arm of government and holds majority seats at both the Senate and House of Representatives in parliament, and 23 out of 36 State Governors.

Buhari secured a second term at the 2019 presidential elections. General elections are scheduled in February 2023. Since 2011, the security landscape has been shaped by the war against Boko Haram terrorist group in the northern states in addition to cases of banditry and kidnappings in the north-west and continued unrest in the southeast resulting from separatist agitations.

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