I have been reading a lot of election propaganda recently and as would be expected, tackling poverty is one of the key points of discussion. However a popular question kept on popping up in my head; do these politicians plan to fight poverty or manage poverty. Fighting poverty involves reducing the number of people living in poverty while managing poverty can be seen as making life more comfortable for the poor. Fighting poverty and managing poverty are two different things often requiring conflicting policies. Sometimes the two objectives align themselves and decision making is easy but most times they don’t. Decisions that reduce poverty often make life a bit more difficult for the poor and decisions that make life easier for the poor often increase or at the very least do nothing to reduce poverty.
During one of the recent presidential debates the candidates were asked if they could achieve improved power supply without increasing electricity tariffs. All but one of the candidates tried to say that they could improve power supply without increasing electricity tariffs even though it is clear that electricity prices must go up for any new much needed private investment. This in itself is not surprising. Politicians lie to get votes all the time but elected officials often make decisions to placate the poor to the detriment of the rest of the economy . One recent example would be the increase in the minimum wage. A policy that may or may not make life easier for anyone earning less than N18000 but in theory increases youth unemployment and definitely inhibits the governments ability to rebalance its budget towards much needed capital expenditure. From fixing prices of pms to outrights bans on some imports, lots of government policies over the last few decades have been made under the auspicies of helping the poor even though in the long run these policies do very little to reduce poverty.
I should point out that I am in no way arguing to advance on the backs of the poor but decisions that move the nations forward should take priority over decisions that manage the poor. Moving the nation forward does more to reduce poverty in the long run than managing poverty could ever do.