Recently, the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) which aims at feeding 3million school children nearly hits bullseye. This scheme was launched as a fulfillment of President Buhari’s campaign promises. As at August 2017, the Federal Government had spent N6.2billion on this initiative in 14 states during the just ended school year. More states are expected to benefit from this scheme by the beginning of the new academic session in September. A question that calls for answers is whether this is not a veneer that will stimulate more government debt, increase dependency and lead to higher taxation.
In a time as this when the country is in a serious economic recession, the school feeding programme may appear to many as a right step in encouraging more basic school enrollment in the country considering the high poverty rate. But the solution to poverty goes beyond throwing resources at the problem. According to the 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) by the World Economic Forum, the present economic downfall makes Nigeria to be ranked 127th of 138 countries featured in the ranking. Although the amount earmarked for the school feeding programme may only be a crumb of the 2017 budget, it is important to note that most welfare programmes like this in Nigeria are neither effective nor sustainable since they are filled with corruption. They are therefore a waste of money. It will be better if the government focus more on stimulating more investments in the economy which will create jobs and help people provide for themselves.
Weaker macroeconomic environment coupled with an unstable financial system, among other factors accounts for the drop in ranking by 3 steps from the 2015-2016 GCI ranking. Government’s deficit has almost doubled since last year and national savings have significantly suffered, both contributing to the downward trajectory of the economy. This may give government no other alternative than to depend on foreign loans to sustain this feeding scheme and others which will lead to roll-up debt for subsequent administrations and could lead to more devastating economic conditions in the future. Tax increase may also be introduced to finance the system. Instead, government should furnish a system which will encourage trade, innovation and competitiveness.
Feeding school children, though noble and well-intentioned, is a misplaced priority when our Primary education is ranked 124th of 138 countries ranked. This programme encourages disparity as only few citizen benefit at the expense of others, hence, the poverty eradication plan looks more like a mirage. The money could be siphoned into individual pockets, increasing the current level of corruption. The HGSFP can produce another problem which will call for more intervention. This conundrum should prompt government to converge her priority on improving education instead of diverging scarce resources on feeding the school children. Partnering with private sector is the best option to boost the future prosperity of the country’s economy by developing infrastructure which creates an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. This should serve as the economy blueprint of the present administration.
Summarily, the scheme attenuates the Nigerian economy, inflicts more harm than good and generates a system that come short of initial goals and imbalance incentive. The scheme should be seen as a train without a brake. The journey may seem good, but its end is detrimental to our poor economy.
Timothy is a Local Coordinator at African Students For Liberty (ASFL). He holds a B.Tech degree in Urban & Regional Planning from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.