Fiscal space for social protection in Nigeria

Briefing papers
September 2011
Jessica Hagen-Zanker and Heidi Tavakoli

Nigeria is an oil-rich country, which has achieved high growth rates in the last five years – approximately 6.5% annually. Equally it spends a large proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP) on government expenditure (33.8% of GDP in 2010). However, despite this, 54% of the Nigerian population still lives in poverty (MDGs Nigeria, 2010). Improving social protection would be one way to address this policy paradox.

Nigeria is an oil-rich country, which has achieved high growth rates in the last five years – approximately 6.5% annually. Equally it spends a large proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP) on government expenditure (33.8% of GDP in 2010). However, despite this, 54% of the Nigerian population still lives in poverty (MDGs Nigeria, 2010). Improving social protection would be one way to address this policy paradox.

To date the scope, coverage and spending on social protection in Nigeria have been low. This Project Briefing analyses whether it is possible to create fiscal space for social protection in Nigeria.

This Project Briefing argues that the greatest scope for increasing fiscal space for pro-poor social protection is via:

  1. improved mobilisation of domestic resources;
  2. allocating an increased proportion of offivial development assistance (ODA) to social protection programmes; and
  3. improved public expenditure management.  

The authors state that creating fiscal space for social protection should not come at the cost of other social sectors, if the impacts of social protection are to be maximised in terms of human development outcomes. Therefore, donors and domestic social protection advocates need to strengthen engagement with the Nigerian government to support the argument for increased pro-poor expenditure in general and expanded social protection in particular.

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