(EDITORIAL) 2017-2019 MTEF/FSP brouhaha- Nigerians not ready for another round of bickering
Over the years, the issue of the annual presentation of budget proposals by the Executive to the National Assembly has always been a thorny issue that creates more controversies than solutions to the well-being of the economy.
While the Executive always wastes ample time in the preparation and presentation of the budget for the appraisal of the lawmakers, the Parliament on its part usually has a reason to pick holes in the budget details, an issue that has now become a yearly tap dance between the two authorities.
The usual area of contention is around the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
The Minister of Finance is expected by law to prepare these two documents for approval by the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly ahead of the presentation of the budget for the following year.
And every year there is always a delay in its presentation to the FEC by such ministers. After the delay in the executive, it suffers further delay when it gets to the Parliament due to what the lawmakers allege to be unprofessional and shoddy presentation by the government’s economic team tasked with its preparation.
The Legislature has once again rejected this year’s MTEF/FSP documents.
Aljazirahnews notes that these two documents provide the basis for the annual budget planning as they contain a macroeconomic framework that indicates revenue and expenditure estimates and related profiles.
The documents also provide underlying assumptions for the projections, evaluation and analysis of the previous year’s budget and overview of consolidated debt and potential fiscal risks.
In other words, the eventual success of any prepared budget is hinged on the effectiveness and professional preparation of the MTEF/FSP.
For many years, this issue has consistently been a bone of contention between the two arms of government with both blaming the other on who should bear the ultimate tar of delay.
While the lawmakers opine that the President does not have a vibrant economic team to assist it in churning out timely and professional economic documents to aid the revamping of the economy in recent months, the Presidency is always quick to lash out at the lawmakers for arm twisting it in order to get concessions politically.
In the present debacle, the Senate President perhaps voiced the opinion of the lawmakers when he said the MTEF/FSP document was unrealistic and lacked adequate details to help the National Assembly make informed decisions.
He tactically went short of calling it ‘empty of details.’
He also said the assumptions on which it was predicated were not in tandem with the present economic realities in terms of government declining revenue, exchange rate, consolidated debt and potential fiscal risks.
He called on the President to ensure that the economic team takes a second look at the projections inserted into the documents with a view to aligning it with current global economic realities.
Aljazirahnews is saddened particularly that the MTEF/FSP and budget presentation to the National Assembly for approval and appropriation have become an annual ritual without concrete outcomes to better the lot of the Nigerian economy and by extension, Nigerian lives.
This is perhaps why the nation always ends up with annual budget failures.
We believe that unless such documents are patiently worked on by a professional government team and based on a well-articulated medium term plan, it will always be an exercise in futility.
As numerous economic pundits have pointed out in the past, the approval of any MTEF/FSP must be done with a rigorous and holistic review that is based on informed input from competent economists and public finance experts.
Aljazirahnews supports the move of the lawmakers to ensure that the details of the documents presented to it are truly realistic.
We however urge them not to play politics with the issue as feelers in the polity point to the fact that many of them who have an axe to grind with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed anti-corruption stance will deliberately sabotage efforts to see to the speedy passage of the budget.
The President must always ensure that only the most competent hands are engaged to handle and subsequently prepare the details of such critical and sensitive economic revival documents.
The government has already under-performed in the 2016 budget going by the dismal economic outlook and recession the nation is experiencing.
Every Nigerian is looking forward positively to a 2017 filled with better economic fortunes for all and this certainly begins with a well-articulated budget that can only be a reality when the two arms of government work together and not at cross-purposes.