ELATED by the 5.01 per cent leap in Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter of this year, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his team have been in a celebratory mode, loudly crediting their exertions for the feat. With bad news cascading from every other front, the National Bureau of Statistics’ report revealing a third consecutive quarter of growth understandably excites the regime. The reality however dictates caution. As the economy restarts from the COVID-19 meltdown, the great challenge ahead is to set the country quickly and radically on to the path of sustainable inclusive growth to reduce poverty and unemployment.
The NBS report was emphatic: growth witnessed since the last quarter of 2020 arose from the “return of business and economic activity near the levels seen before the implementations of COVID-19-related restrictions.” It explained that this gradual return of commercial activities, as well as local and international travels, accounted for significant growth. Consequently, the Q2 growth of 5.01 per cent was a marked departure from Q2 2020 when the economy contracted by -6.10 per cent, by -3.62 per cent in Q3 2020, and from the meagre 0.51 per cent growth in Q1 2021. Real GDP growth from January to June rose 2.7 per cent compared to the -2.18 per cent contraction in the first half of 2020.
Having presided recently over two recessions, the regime has been euphoric. Buhari credited the expansion in real terms by 6.74 per cent of the non-oil sector, the fastest rise in the sector since Q3 2014, the 9.27 per cent growth in the service sector (its strongest performance in a decade), and the 14.99 per cent growth in nominal GDP from Q2 2020, to his policies, and the “hard work and commitment” of the economic managers. He believes his Economic Sustainability Plan fast-tracked the exit from recession and had continued to impact on the main drivers of growth like agriculture, ICT, transportation, electricity, and manufacturing. Ministers have also cited success in non-oil sector stimulation.