Interrogating Change: Social Investment, Social Inaction, And Social Deception, By Jaye Gaskia

Gaskia

Gaskia

THIS ARTICLE IS AN UPDATED AND EXPANDED ADAPTATION OF A PAPER PRESENTED AT A RECENT TECHNICAL SESSION ON SOCIAL SECURITY ORGANISED BY ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION (ERA)]

 

INTRODUCTION:

It is important that I make certain clarifications from the beginning in order to aid an understanding of this write-up.

As stated above, this article is an expanded and updated version of a paper presentation at a technical session convened to look at Social Security.

Secondly, I need to affirm from the very beginning that I am an advocate of social investment, of social protection programming, of radical social transformation, even social revolution.

Third a critical look at global historical experience proves the point of the efficacy of social protection and social security programming in drastically reducing inequality, poverty, and enhancing social cohesion while reducing social tensions and conflicts.

Beginning with the Keynesian intervention that underpinned the Marshall plan for a devastated Europe after the first two world wars of the 20th Century, through to the establishment on its basis of the welfare state in Europe and the US in the post 2nd world war period of the 20th century, social security programming has helped to enhance social cohesion and enable a more equitable distribution of wealth globally.

Fourth, in the last tow to three decades, the only continent that has achieved radical and steep reduction in inequality and poverty levels has been Latin America. And it is no coincidence: this is the only continent where over the last two or more decades a succession of radical left transformative governance has implemented a consistent policy of social security.

So with respect to our own situation in Nigeria, I am equally convinced that what is needed is the construction of a Developmental and welfare state, one for which social security programming will be the driver of economic stabilisation, recovery and growth.

This is a major reason why I am very interested in a critical review of this current regimes pronouncements, statements, and intentions on social investment.

However, a critical look at the regime’s intentions, plans [or more appropriately planlessness] in this area, makes me to arrive at the conclusion that there is no indication that any serious systematic process is on-going, nor is there any indication of any clear evidence of systemic preparedness to implement an effective and efficient social security program.

CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND:

The present administration having campaigned on the electoral platform of ‘Change’ and inheriting an economic crisis characterised by declining GDP growth and contraction of the economy that has eventually resulted  in the current economic depression with two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth to with -0.36% in Q1 2016 and -2.01% in Q2 2016, had predicated its 2016 budget plans on the thrust of reflating the economy through increased but targeted and more efficiently utilised public spending.

The administration had thus taken the decision to increase capital expenditure to 30% of the total budget while also introducing a social investment component of Special Intervention Programs totally N500bn, making up about 17% of the total budget.

This is the context and background against which the much touted  social protection program of the present administration as a flag ship of its Change agenda and as a first of its kind investment in people since the return to democracy and the inauguration of the 4th Republic in 1999.

THE SPECIAL INTERVENTION PROGRAM/SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAM [SIP] OF THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION:

The 2016 appropriation Act, the first budget of this administration provides the general context for the SIP and social protection initiative of the FGN.

The 2016 budget is thus predicated on Six Pillars, including;

  1. Economic Reforms
  2. Infrastructure Development

iii.            Social Development

  1. Governance and Security
  2. Environment, and
  3. States/Regional Development

Additionally, the Key Objectives were summarised thus;

  1. Ensure stable macro-economic environment for real sector development
  2. Investment in critical infrastructure, Science, Technology, and Innovations to enhance productivity, and lower cost of doing business
  3. Creating significant number of jobs to reduce unemployment and underemployment, especially among youths
  4. Protecting the poor and vulnerable through the Special Intervention Programs [SIP], and
  5. Diversification of the economy away from reliance on oil

The highlights of the SIP were captured in the 2016 budget as;

  1. Job creation: including 500,000 teachers and 100,000 artisans @N191.5bn
  2. School Feeding for 5.5 million school children for 200 school days per annum @N93.1bn
  3. Conditional Cash Transfers [CCT] of N5,000 per month to 1 million beneficiaries from the most vulnerable households @N68.7bn
  4. Enterprise development program of skills acquisition aimed at supporting 1 million market women; 460,000 artisans; and 200,000 agriculture [extension] workers @N140.3bn
  5. STEM Education Grant for 100,000 students of tertiary institutions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths annually @N5.8bn

Furthermore the total budgetary allocation for the SIP was put at N500bn [approximately 17% of the total budget], with 60% or N300bn, and 40% or N200bn respectively for Recurrent and Capital components of the SIP Budget.

2016 BUDGET STRATEGIC IMPLEMENTATION PLAN:

To guide the implementation of the 2016 budget, a strategic implementation plan [SIP] was also developed by the FGN.

This SIP is based on six core focal areas for strategic implementation,  to be realised through a total of 34 measurable and verifiable priority actions spread across the six core thematic areas as follows;

  1. Policy Environment, National Security and Governance: through 9 Priority Actions
  2. Economic Diversification: through 10 Priority Actions

iii.            Priority Critical Infrastructure: through 7 Priority Actions

  1. Oil and Gas Reforms: through 4 Priority Actions
  2. Increasing Ease of Doing Business: through 2 Priority Actions
  3. Social Investment: through 2 Priority Actions

 

ELLABORATION OF THE SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROJECTS:

The social investment projects/social intervention projects were further elaborated in the following manner;

  1. Establishment of Volunteer Teachers Corps and employment of 500,000 Graduate Teachers for the scheme for a 2 year volunteer period. Participants will receive monthly stipend of N23,000 to N30,000 and will also be given computers and other equipment.
  2. Direct Cash transfers of N5,000 monthly to upto 1 million economically vulnerable and extremely poor Nigerians [households].
  3. Provision of micro-credit to 1 million market women, 460,000 artisans, and 200,000 agricultural workers.
  4. Annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths [STEM] bursaries to 100,000 eligible undergraduate students.
  5. School feeding program in partnership with the 36 state governments and FCT to cater for 5.5 million children per annum.
  6. Amendment of the Land Use Act to create Freehold/Leasehold interests in land.
  7. Allocation of 5 to 10 Hectares of legally titled land per state for development of High Density Housing Units.
  8. Revitalisation of 1 [one] primary health care Centre per ward across 10,000 wards nationwide.

WHERE ARE WE WITH IMPLEMENTATION, THE GAPS AND DEFICITS?

However as with everything else envisaged with the 2016 budget, the delay in passing and eventually signing the appropriation act into law [May 2016, 5 months into the financial year 2016], as well as the consequent delay in implementation of the budget through the release of funds [beginning in June 2016, half way through the year]; are already having deleterious impact on the realisation of the objectives of the 2016 budget.

Furthermore the shortfall in government revenue occasioned by reduced earnings and the constraints imposed by the economic recession will further compound the ability and capacity of the FGN to fully implement the budget.

The eventual end result of this will be the undermining of the implementation and as a result impact of the social intervention programs.

However, these factors as significant as they are, are not the only, nor do they constitute the most significant impediments to successful implementation.

The most significant impediments include the following:

  1. The seeming lack of preparedness to implement the scheme exemplified by the absence of systems and mechanisms as well as policy reform processes to underlie the implementation.
  2. Although there is a Special Adviser to the president on Social Protection attached to the office of the Vice President ostensibly to coordinate implementation of the SIP, there does not appear to be any structure in place to support this, nor does there seem to be any processes in place either.
  3. Very germane questions continue to persist including for instance: how will beneficiaries be targeted and identified? What will be the criteria for making final selections? Who will be responsible institutionally for organising the identification and selection of beneficiaries? Which public [MDAs] and private organisations will be involved the selection and implementation of the programs, including providing training, services, products and mentoring, etc? And how will these be identified and selected? Who is responsible for generating and maintaining appropriate and efficient data base? And what will be the relationship of this structure to existing institutions, for example NBS, NDE etc? What is the architecture for ensuring coordination, providing strategic oversight and ensuring monitoring and evaluation of the SIP implementation? Is this already in place? Is this being put in place? What role for the National Planning Commission and the National Population Commission, as well as National Identity Management Commission among others? Are their policy and legislative frameworks that require to be put in place or reformed/reviewed to make for successful implementation? Who is undertaking this exercise?
  4. Finally there is also the glaring absence on transparency, including participatory and multi-stakeholder consultative processes to understand the challenges, design the framework, processes and mechanisms for implementation and sustainability, as well as provide guidance for implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

CURRENT SIP IMPLEMENTATION STATUS:

As with the rest of the 2016 appropriation Act there is very little information available in the public space with respect to status report on the implementation of the budget in general, and the SIP in particular, beyond the irregular announcement of the release of funds to back up capital projects, amounting to about N330bn so far released.

Ordinarily as envisaged and mandated by the FRA 2007, the Finance Ministry is required to prepare and release quarterly budget performance reports, which ought necessarily to include clear details of the efforts so far made and the challenges confronting budget implementation process.

So as it is there is no information in the public domain with respect to how much of the N500bn SIP Votes [what percentage of the recurrent @N300bn and capital @N200bn components of this SIP vote] has been released and for what purpose?

Is it still realistic that 5.5 million school children will be fed a meal a day for 200 school days in the current year?

Is it still realistic that 1 million market women, 1 million extremely poor households, 460,000 artisans etc can still be identified, selected and reached during the current year?

The available information in the public domain suggest that the recruitment of 500,000 teachers was flagged off in June 2016 through a digital portal.

This initiative is branded as N-Power Initiative with the following components being envisaged; N-Power Teach – 500,000 teacher trainees; N-Power Knowledge – 25,000 to be trained in area of technology – 5,000 in animation and graphics, and 10,000 each in software and hardware; and N-Power Build – with 75,000 targeted for skills acquisition in building services, construction, hospitality and catering, automotive vocations, and aluminium and gas services.

Beyond these however nothing else is known about the implementation status of the other seven projects from the pool o of eight Social investment projects envisaged in the 2016 budget.

Nothing seems to have been put in place with respect to the identification of the 1 million market women; the 1 million vulnerable and poorest households; the 460,000 artisans; and the 200,000 to be trained and deployed as agriculture extension service providers/workers.

How is the identification and selection process being undertaken? What is the criteria for selection? Who is developing the criteria? And who will be responsible for deploying the criteria and undertaking the selection?

How will participants be distributed? Will each state of the federation and the FCT be the units for identifying participants, and implementing the programs? If yes, how will the numbers be distributed and shared among and within the states? If the states will be the implementing unit are the states and their governance structures being carried along? What is the role of the National Economic Council [NEC], which includes all the 36 state governors, and is chaired by the Vice President in the implementation of the SIP? Is it providing strategic oversight?

Let us move to the school feeding program. How many public schools will be participating to arrive at the 5.5 million targeted numbers of pupils? How many small and medium scale farmers across the states will be involved in the production of the food? How many caterers will be contracted to cook the once daily meals over 200 school days across the country? How many transport and haulage firms will be involved? How many market women and traders in food stuff will be involved? How many poultry farmers will be included across the federation? How will these service providers – farmers, poultry farmers, traders, caterers, and transporters be selected? What will be the criteria for selection? Who will manage the process? What will be the degree of collaboration, and therefore the structures for coordination between say the Federal Ministry of Education and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the one hand; and between the National Council on Education and the National Council on Agriculture [both bodies including the respective state ministries of education and agriculture and chaired by the respective Federal Ministers], on the other hand?

What will be role and level of involvement of producers associations in the agriculture sector, including farmers associations, poultry and livestock associations, and cattle breeders association, as key stakeholders in the design and implementation of this component of SIP for instance?

A gain, if we take the initiative around rehabilitation of 10,000 Primary Health Care Centers [PHCs] across 10,000 wards [spread one per each of 10,000 wards across the country; how will the selection of wards and PHC be made? What will be the selection criteria? Who is undertaken the needs assessment whose report should underpin the selection process? How is this to be managed? Given that Primary Health Care is within the purview and mandate of Local Governments with the supervision of state governments, how are Local Government administration and coordination structures being engaged? How is the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Council on Health collaborating on this issue? What does rehabilitation entail; Just the refurbishment of buildings and the physical environment? Will these include equipment and facilities; As well as deploying personnel, retaining them and upgrading their skills and capacity?

As already indicated above, there is no indication in the public domain that any of these processes are being undertaken; neither the office of the Vice President, nor the relevant Ministries have released any information with regards to implementation status updates. In fact even the Minister of Finance in her periodic announcement of release of capital allocations ostensibly to reflate the economy has ever given any indication with respect to how much of the appropriated N500BN for the SIP has been released, and for which of the projects.

It is important at this point to also quickly look at the impact of the current state of the economy on the capacity and or ability to implement or fund the implementation of the SIP.

Since the preparation of the 2016 budget and the calculation of the estimates contained therein, inflation rate has jumped from roughly 13% to 18%, while the value of the Naira has tumbled from roughly N200 to the USD to N460 to the USD, leading to a more than 200% decline in the value of the Naira, and a consequent reduction in the purchasing value of the Naira.

Thus realistically the current value of the N500bn SIP is probably less than N300bn, a significant drop in qualitative terms in the value of what this can be used for.

In the light of this, has there been, or is there an on-going review of the program; With whom, as in with which stakeholders is this review being undertaken?

Nevertheless it is important to point out that reduction in the quantum of available funds, should ordinary not lead to paralysis and inaction. A number of other things, with respect to institutional, and policy frameworks that are a pre-requisite for implementation can and ought to be put in place to lay a solid foundation for implementation.

Alas, there is no indication, at least in the public domain, that this is being done, that systems, and structures, as well as policy frameworks that will underlie, drive and ease implementation are being put in place.

It is this lack of activity that makes one to draw the conclusion that the social investment program is being undermined and paralysed by Social Inaction; and that this Social Inaction will inevitably lead to a situation where the Social Investment Program would have been converted into a Social Deception Program.

SOCIAL INVESTMENT AND POTENTIAL IMPACT ON STEMING ECONOMIC RECESSION:

As stated earlier, I am however of the opinion that a more focused government, with a deliberate approach to strategic visioning and planning, and one with the capacity to evolve in consultation with society a National Development Strategic Plan Framework, would have been able to integrate social security programming into, and as a the driver of an Economic Stabilisation And Recovery Plan, that would have been able to stem the contraction of the economy and return the economy not only to growth, but also to inclusive growth.

How might this have happened? N500bn, or in its current value, N300bn injected in a focused, determined, and targeted manner would have been able to revive growth, by supporting local production and productivity, and reviving profitability of Businesses – small, medium and large scale.

Let me illustrate with some examples; the N93bn budgeted for the school feeding program could have gone into supporting say 1 large scale farm, managing like about 1,000 small scale farmers per state to produce 5.5 million eggs per day. That is about 37 large scale poultry farms, and about 37,000 small scale farmers drawn into this business model. We can develop a similar model for the catering services needed to feed 5.5 million pupils per day; or the number of transporters and traders in food stuff that can be embedded into similar business model.

We can extrapolate for each of the other projects involved social investment program. 500,000 teachers with 500,000 laptops can go a long way to transform the local PC manufacturing industry, along with software and hardware businesses that will develop and install apps and as well maintain the systems, among other expenses to be taken care of with the N191bn budgeted for this.

And what about the N140bn for enterprise development – the 1 million market women that will be supported with business development management capacity development and grants; the 460,000 artisans that will benefit from skills acquisition and grants; all of these would have translated into stronger SMEs, that will become more profitable and that will employ more hands.

It is the inability of this government and ruling party to understand the immense potential of a policy initiative that it so glibly handles is what is rather baffling. And it has made me to reach the conclusion once again that this government is not only ill-prepared to govern, but actually possibly incapable of governing.