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Are Federal Funded Social Welfare Programs the Solution?

Some people believe that federal funded social welfare programs are a solution to poverty. I mean it seems like a straight forward solution right. If the poor are hungry, then government provides subsidized food or some sort of food assistance program. If the poor are homeless, then government provides free or subsidized housing.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in welfare programs. I believe that they can be beneficial, help lessen the burden that the poor face and improve their standard of living. However, without tackling the main issues that plague this country like population size, education, unemployment and security, most welfare programs will not have as much effect on the lives of those it was designed for as it should. I believe in giving as many people as possible the tools needed to survive and be independent before implementing welfare programs.

Nigeria is a highly populated country. We all know that it is one of the most populated countries in the world. According to the country profile data of Nigeria by the World Bank, the total population (millions) of Nigeria in 2018 was 195.87 and the population density (people per sq. km of land area) was 215.1.Nigeria’s population is large compared to its GDP, which leads its GDP per capita (Y/N; where Y is GDP and N is Population) to be low. This means that the standard of living for most Nigerians is low.

A large portion of Nigeria’s population live below the World Banks poverty line of $1.90 or N684.97(at $1=N360.51) per day. According to an online article on Vanguard news titled 91 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty- World Poverty Clock by Emmanuel Okogba on February 16, 2019, the World Poverty Clock created by Vienna based world data lab estimates that approximately ninety-one million Nigerians where living below the poverty line as of February 13, 2019. Funny enough, the title of the article gives away the figure without you having to even read it.

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This figure however, is an increase from the figure as of June 2018, which was approximately eighty-seven million. According to the 2017 revision of the world population prospects by the population division of United Nations DESA, Nigeria’s population is “projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third largest country in the world shortly before 2050”.

A map showing total fertility rate of each country in the world by the population division of the United Nations DESA estimates that total fertility rate (TFR, the number of children a woman is expected to have if she lives through her child bearing years) for Nigeria will drop to 3-3.5 births from 2050-2055. This is still higher than the TFR for most developed countries today, which is interesting.

Thirty-one plus years from now, the total fertility rate for Nigeria will still be higher than the current total fertility rate of developed countries.There should be more avenues to educate women (both married and youths) and men about the proper use of contraceptives and the importance of family planning. I don’t think drastic policies, like China’s one child policy, are needed because it hurts the country’s economy in the long run. We just need to create more awareness about the financial importance of family planning and the benefits of reducing the total fertility rate in the country. Government/ General hospitals should offer classes for women, teenage girls and youths about the use of contraceptives and safe sex practices in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The poor lifestyle that most Nigerians find themselves in is not voluntary and is difficult to come out of. Some of those below the poverty line are stuck in a poverty trap and so their investment tomorrow is always less than their investment today. In such a situation, these people in a poverty trap would need significant financial aid to help them climb out of the poverty trap.

However, this financial aid is not easy to acquire for most and people should not have gotten to that level of requiring financial aid in the first place. If the government provided quality and affordable public education systems for citizens as well as ample employment opportunities for recent graduates, majority of the people stuck in a poverty trap right now might not be stuck.

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The public education system in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. Even if you are able to go through the system and graduate from university, there is no guarantee that you will get a job anytime soon.This discourages parents from investing in their kids’ higher education, especially households that can hardly afford two meals a day.There are a lot of hardworking and intelligent youths sitting at home idle with nothing to do.

This lack of job affects them financially and ruins the hopes of families that expected financial assistance from their graduate child. If government can address the unemployment problem, most of the Nigerian youths will have jobs and then there will be less people dependent on welfare programs when they are implemented, which increases the chances of success of these programs.

Other than unemployment, education and population size, another main issue and the most important one in fact is security. Security within the country has been a popular topic of discussion. People in the north live in fear of the terror group operating heavily within their borders. Many others are extremely careful about the places they visit because of the fear of being kidnapped.

The weird thing is that kidnappers are very bold and smart now a days. Some don’t even attempt their evil acts at night in lonely environments anymore. They do so during the day on a road that you would least expect it. So how do you know which area is safe? Even if government by some miracle is able to fix the education system, address population growth and provide more jobs, it would not make a difference if there is no security. The lack of security can prevent people from enjoying government services and limit the effectiveness of any social welfare program implemented by the government.

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For example, in areas where insurgents operate, parents will not be eager to send their kids to school even if there is a large supply of schools. Workers will also not be keen to go to work because of fear of being harassed or even kidnaped on their way to work. So, you see even if everything else is fixed and security is ignored, it will seem like nothing happened.

With the large number of people living in poverty, what kind of welfare program can the government implement that will actually make a difference in people’s lives and not add to our deficit and national debt? This is why I say that the government has to first tidy up its act. Some developed countries are finding it hard to reign in the cost of some of their welfare programs. Showing that welfare programs are not something to jump into without getting your house in order.

It is not too late for government to implement changes so that the younger generation of Nigerians as well as future generations will have a different experience than most of us. By addressing the bigger issues and learning how to effectively manage resources, we as a nation can ensure that any welfare program implemented by the government will blossom.

Source: businessdayng

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