Why government should invest in human capital

Why government should invest in human capital

Ace Omozuwa

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its published report of Global Human Capital Index2017 ranked Nigeria 114th out of 130 economies. In key sub-index Nigeria’s place was uninspiring. She was placed in the bottom 10 in development (122) and Know-how (124).

Globally, provident governments are engaged in “preparing people for the future of work.” They prioritize the capacity development of their citizens. This is because; great nations are built by great citizens. There cannot be sustainable economic development without sufficient human resources.

TheWorld Economic Forum underscores the above-stated fact beautifully: “How nations develop their human capital can be a more important determinant of their long-term success than virtually any other factor.” No nation canrise above the collective competence and economic skills of her citizens.  The notch a nation occupies in any development hierarchy is often reflective of her accumulative investment in human capital.

In the post-industrial age, human resource drives development more than natural resources, which are depletive.  The different tiers of government in Nigeria often act in ways that suggest they are not aware of the empirical fact that growth in human capital facilitates economic growth. If they are aware, it does not show beyond political rhetoric. The abysmal budgetary provisions for education and health undermine the factuality of their feigned unawareness.

If Nigeria truly aspires to become an advanced economy, and wish to earn a place on the list of IMF 30 richest countries in the world per capita, she needs to invest in human capital.  In the same way, if she desires to be an inclusive nation where “nobody is left behind”, she needs to invest in the development of those at the fringes of society, particularly, children of the indigent.

Any policy geared at promoting economic progressthat putsinvestment in human development on the back burner is deficient. One way to evaluate the quality of a policy is to examine its link with human capacity enhancement. Good policies are people-centric, and forward-looking. That is why foresighted governments strive to make their nations better and stronger by creating opportunities for citizens to grow, to learn, and to thrive.

Their development plans are tailored towards creating enabling environment for citizens to attain future success.  Sadly, this is not the reality in Nigeria. Here policies are formulated to enhance political prestige, inflame bureaucratic glory, or comply with the dictates of powerful Euro-American institutions.

Without proper planning Nigeria’s amazing population growth could be a recipe for future economic debacle.It could make human life unbearably toughHowever, with effective planning, it could become an engine of growth that will make this world a better place for all.

For Nigeria to harness future possibilities the education of every citizen must be a top priority of government. It is an anathema that over one million Nigerian children of school age are selling pure water on the streets, engaged in menial toil, laboring as bus conductors, begging or stealing to eat. It is ridiculous that many learning spaces across the six geopolitical zones of the nation are reminiscent of antediluvianvillage square. When I recently saw an eyewitness picture of a school in Delta State shown on Channels Television where students sat on carefully arranged stones I felt we have regressed to primitive times.

There is no realistic way Nigeria can harness the economic possibilities of the fourth industrial revolution without investing in the education and skill development of children and youths.  The fourth industrial revolution, which is an offshoot of the digital revolution, is defined by a synthesis of technologies that is compressing the physical, digital, and biological spheres into new systems of reality, production, education, management and governance.

The fourth industrial revolution is driven by sophisticated intellectual amplitude in the fields of artificial intelligence, mechatronics, autonomous vehicles, robotics,and the Internet of Things. The list is grossly incomplete without adding other fields like quantum computing, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, space technology, energy storage, and biotechnology. Advances in all of these fields are predicated on top quality education.

The kind of development that will make Nigeria relevant in the era of the fourth industrial revolution is driven by the science of planning and allocating resources, not by slogan. Brilliant political rhetoric does not equip citizens with the requisite skills to thrive in techno-social markets. Only wise investments in human capital can. It is a legitimate duty of the Nigerian state to channel public funds to the development of the citizens.

Any investment in top quality education is a wise investment that would eliminate future poverty, promote national integration, and peace and prosperity. It is not sheer coincidence that the top 3 in WEF’s ranking; Norway, Finland and Switzerland are safe and secured societies. Indeed, Norway is shutting down her prisons, because of historically low crime rate.

Nobody will develop Nigeria, if Nigerians do not. Not even the most benevolent aid-donor in the West. Recall, shortly after the World Wars, AmericanPresident Truman on the day of his inaugurationin 1949, proclaimed:  “We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. The old imperialism is dead-exploitation for foreign profit-has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing.” The “concepts of democratic fair dealing” are yet to develop any nation several decades afterwards.

Nigeria cannot truly develop without enhancing the total wellbeing of children and youths. Poverty breeds aspirational poverty, it diminishes people’s capacity to dream. Aspirational poverty often explains the achievement gap between the children of the rich and children of the poor.  It is the moral duty of government to free children from the multigenerational trap of aspirational poverty. Government should create programs that enhance their capacity to aspire.

Government must not lend support to the myth that it is a vice for the children of the poor to dream. A nation that inadvertently outlaws the right of the underclass to dream cannot be said to be a bastion of progressive egalitarian ideals. In other words, a democratic nation that fails to cater for the underclass is anti-progressive, or plagued by hypocritical crassness. Such a nation is teetering on the verge of tyrannical landmines.

New paradigms of development place greater emphasis on human capacity development than welfarist palliatives.  The tokenistic gestures of a welfare state cannot inspire citizens to attain their utmost best. Such gestures could be counterproductive. They are capable of making people to pining away in subhuman conditions, which characterize urban and rural hellholes.

The true meaning of empowerment is to protect the right ofcitizens to nurse lofty aspirations, and create supportive environment where dreams come through by dint of diligence and innovation. Citizen-friendly governments cannot luxuriate in opulence, while poverty and other inimical socioeconomic forces are smashing the noble aspirations of the vulnerable.

Investment in human capital should be a core element of any strategy adopted to diversify the nation’s economy.  To demonstrate our commitment to economic diversification, all tiers of government should reduce overhead cost.  All levels of government should substantially increase budgetary allocation to education and health sectors with the aim to enhance “The knowledge and skills people possess that enable them to create value in the global economic system.” Toward this end, therevamping of vocational institutes, mono-technics, polytechnics, and universities is imperative.

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