World Bank Ranks Nigeria Among ‘Extreme Poor Nations:’ Okonjo-Iweala Says No, Attempts To Redefine Poverty

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Apr. 3, 2014


A former employer Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala tried hard to win leadership of, the World Bank, yesterday classified her current employer, Nigeria, in the “extreme poor nation’’ category, but Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, deflected that rating today, saying it was based only on the large population of the poor.

She implied that Nigeria was rich, but for its poor.

In Washington on Wednesday, Dr Jim Kim, the man who got the job ahead of Okonjo-Iweala, classified Nigeria among the world’s extremely poor countries, a category that also included India, China, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya.

“The fact is that two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Kim said.  “If you add another five countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, the total grows to 80 per cent of the extreme poor.”

In Abuja today, Okonjo-Iweala shrugged off the analysis, arguing that the number of poor people in a country irrespective of the country’s level of development was the parameter used to rate Nigeria among nations with high poverty level.  Her analysis evoked imageries of her time also as Finance Minister in the government of Olusegun Obasanjo, when that president, uncomfortable with international criticism of the government’s economic failures, asked officials to redefine poverty.

According to Okonjo-Iweala today, “India is a middle-income country, one of the largest economies in the world like Nigeria, is a big economy, but the largest number of poor people in the world reside in India, China and other places.  Most middle-income countries, including Brazil have large number of poor people that is the reality of today and Nigeria is no exception.”

According to her, there is no reason to single Nigeria out because the country is growing and there are poor people everywhere [in other countries].   She noted in that regard that Kim also talked about India, to the effect that that country is doing well [but] has a large number of poor people.

“Nobody says that everything is fine but we are learning and where we make some progress like other countries, we should also acknowledge it,’’ the Minister said.

She ignored the normal criticism concerning why Nigeria, with massive potential and resources many developing countries lack, find development difficult because of the heavy burden of corruption and mismanagement that are anchored by people at the top.