UNICEF appeals for action to "spread the oil dividend" in Gabon
LIBREVILLE, 29 May 2013 – The urgent need to address social inequality in oil rich middle income country like Gabon was highlighted at a workshop (21 to 24 May 2013) organized by UNICEF and during which government professionals were guided on how to achieve social benefits for vulnerable populations.
For UNICEF Representative ai, Dr Speciose HAKIZIMANA "In the oil-producing countries such as Gabon, social transfers can help to ensure that the population as a whole benefits from the dividends of oil, to reduce inequality and build social cohesion, particularly important in a country that aspires to the emergence relying on all his daughters and all his sons".
Gabon is a country of paradoxes. While the GDP per capita estimated at $12.249 (Report 2011, Human Development) ranking it among the richest countries in Sub-Saharan countries, the distribution of national wealth is unequal, with the richest quintile owning 50% of national income, whereas 33% of the population still lives below the national poverty line.
For UNICEF, investing in social protection and social transfers represents gains for the country, as it has long-term economic and social returns. Indeed, social transfers allow low-income families to invest in their children, thus contributing to the development of human capital and long-term growth. When allowing poor families to overcome financial barriers of access to basic social services (fees, transport, and / or opportunity costs), the school dropout rates fall and more children from households with low-income use health services.
According to the third national report on the monitoring of MDGs (2010), Gabon has a high probability to achieve MDG 2 (Universal primary education) and is unlikely to achieve MDG 1 on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. In the same period, another report on “Analysis of the public budget dedicated to children” mentions that health and education sectors receive respectively 1.5% and 2.9% of GDP, which is below international benchmarks. In addition, if one looks at the level of allocations dedicated to social protection (1.2% of GDP), it remains extremely low for a resource-rich upper middle-income country like Gabon.
Social policy and social transfers are not just about costs. It is about social justice and equity and in the case of Gabon, an oil producer with high per capita income; it is about offering opportunities for the 33 % of poor people and vulnerable children and women, to improve their leaving standards to allow them remain sustainably above the national poverty line and contribute to economic growth.
Since 2009, the Gabonese government has launched extensive domestic reforms to make Gabon an emerging country by 2025. This raises a fundamental question and also poses some challenges: How can social policy and social transfers be translated into effective interventions targeting the vulnerable children and women and contribute to lasting changes in their lives so that every girl and every boy can benefit from social development and an “emerging Gabon”. It is possible if enough resources are dedicated to social transfers; it is possible if policy and mechanisms are improved to facilitate effective social transfers for the vulnerable people to reduce poverty.
Strengthening the capacity of national staff is only one of the steps in the staircase that leads to economic and social development. Gabon needs to maintain and strengthen its efforts to improve the social policies framework to reap in the coming years the fruits of social justice, equity and social development.
In the words of UNICEF Representative ai: "Together, we can make social protection and social transfers the fuel for economic development and a factor of equity promotion and the realization of human rights".
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For more information, please contact:
Speciose HAKIZIMANA in Libreville,