Political leaders around the world have over continued to commit to ending Global poverty and improving the lives of the World’s poor. This commitment rhetoric is also well documented across political and governance manifestos around the country. The Federal Government as part of their commitment to improving the lives of the country’s poorest continue to drive a number of pro-poor and social safety-net programs, and as these programs are rolled out, every Nigerian must hope that the lives of the poorest can be improved.
The Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) performed a recent literature and evidence review on “Macroeconomics and Health” towards proffering solutions to drive economic growth and lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty. Through this review, the AAFP found that whilst improving health and life expectancy is an end itself, it is also a means of achieving nationwide poverty reduction.
Investments in the reduction of maternal deaths and improvement of maternal outcomes, through key interventions like family planning and the maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) services rapidly improve the health and wellbeing of our women, with these improvements seen to translate into higher working capacity and productivity, higher incomes and higher economic growth. The evidence review by AAFP also found that the high disease burdens evidenced by high numbers of deaths of children less than one year and less than five years old, slows down economic growth.
The consequences of ill-health on overall economic growth, poverty reduction and development are adverse and catastrophic, and it was also seen through the review, that the great economic takeoffs documented throughout history were in tandem with important breakthroughs in public health, disease control and improved nutritional intake.
Success therefore, in lifting millions of Nigerians out of poverty and driving both economic growth and development will require seriousness of purpose, strong political will and a commitment to evidence based programming for development. The National Budget must demonstrate this level of will and commitment to evidence based programming, as the budget is a key instrument that a country uses to demonstrate its priorities.
The 2017 budget leaves a lot of questions unanswered, about whether health is indeed a National priority and whether we, as a Nation, understand clearly the economic impact of investing in health. The proposed 2017 budget does indeed appear to be a lost opportunity for economic growth for Nigeria.
A recent analysis of the proposed 2017 budget for health, by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) project found that the proposed budget for health for 2017 is 4.17% of the total National budget (the 3rd lowest allocation in a decade) as compared to 4.13% in 2016, with 16.87% of the allocation to health earmarked for capital expenditure. It is important that the commitment and efforts of the Ministry of Health and the Executive Arm of the Federal Government in driving this increase is acknowledged, despite a wide disconnect between the magnitude of the challenge in health and the financial allocation.
The PACFaH analysis also found that the 2017 budget has N51bn allocated to capital expenditure in health, at an exchange rate of N305 to the dollar, which amounts to USD168M. The 2016 budget allocated N28bn to capital expenditures in health, at an exchange rate of N197 to the dollar, which amounted to USD145M. This is concerning across sectors, but is especially important for health, as a significant portion of the capital expenditure allocation goes to procuring drugs and commodities from the international market, in US dollars.
The competing interest across sectors for limited resources is a factor that affects planning in every country. However, considering the disease burden across our Nation and the economic impact of investing in health, our National leadership must be bold in making evidence based decisions. Our leadership must see that it is in the interest of the people and for the good of the Nigerian economy to increase the funding allocation to health, if we are to for starters prevent at least 1.6 million unintended pregnancies, 400,000 infant deaths and 700,000 child deaths, as well as lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
Health is the basis for job productivity, learning capacity and growth potential. Nobel Laureates Theodore Shultz and Gary Becker demonstrated health and education as the basis for an individual’s economic productivity, making health critical to lifting millions of Nigerians out of poverty. Investing in health is therefore the right thing to do. It is the bold thing to do, for all Nigerians.