EDITORIAL: Appraising the 8.6trn ‘2018 Budget of Consolidation’

EDITORIAL: Appraising the 8.6trn ‘2018 Budget of Consolidation’

President Muhammadu Buhari has officially presented N8.6 trillion 2018 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly. During the presentation, Buhari announced that the budget is projected at an oil price of $45 per barrel and an estimated 2.3 million barrels per day, adding that the budget would consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets to aggressively steer the economy to the path of steady growth.

At a total of N8.612 trillion — the “budget of consolidation” — seems massive. Notable are the capital expenditure vote of N2.428,494 trillion as against a recurrent expenditure estimate of N3.494 trillion; and a projection of N2.014 trillion for Debt Service.

For the sectors, the Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing seems ready to guzzle a lion share of N558.8 billion, Defence N145 bn, Universal basic Education N109.06 bn aside of N61.73 bn for the Education sector in general, water Resources N95.11 bn, Industry, Trade and Investment N82.92 bn, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) N71.2 bn, Health N71.11 bn, Ministry of Interior N63.26 bn and N10 bn for the 2nd Niger Bridge among others.

The biggest allocations in the 2018 budget asides N3 trillion to recurring costs, is a lump sum of N2 trillion to debt management, which is closely followed by N500 billion to infrastructure, and N263 billion to Transportation.

But analyzing the budget and its allocations to economic sectors with reference to major events in Nigeria, two allocations immediately stand out; the budgetary allocations to health care and education.

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The president’s budgetary allocations do not seem to appreciate just how dire our circumstances are. The 2018 budgetary allocation for the health sector is 71 billion naira, only 6 billion more than the budgetary allocation for the payment of amnesty allowances to Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants. A state of the art MRI machine costs about $1.2 million, which when converted to Naira is about N427 million. Ten states of the art MRI machines, which at this point would barely even adequately serve 5% of our population’s healthcare needs would consume nearly 10% of 2018’s budgetary allocations.

More so, the allocation for education in the 2018 budget is N61 billion, N3 billion less than the budgetary allocation for Amnesty payments, N89 billion less than the budgetary allocation for ‘special interventions’. What could be worthier of an intervention than an educational system that is practically non-existent? We do not have locally trained professionals because we do not have schools with adequately trained teachers, or even contemporary equipment and training materials to ensure that our trained professionals are at par with their global contemporaries.

But beyond the open declaration of the budget, a lot is still expected from the NASS and the executive arm of government. We call on the National Assembly and the Executive to step up their game by ensuring that budget preparation, deliberations, and allocation, as well as passage, takes a serial and harmonious touch to make for easy and smooth passage.

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The question about government’s capacity to implement the 2018 budget successfully becomes pertinent against the perception that the 2016 Budget performance was deemed to be poor — probably below 50 per cent — while the performance for the current year is still being monitored. AljazirahNigeria still believes the 2018 budget represents a glimmer of hope for Nigerians if it is fully implemented. Implementation and execution of budget have always been a major challenge every year as low implementation of budgets in the past had led to high rate of project abandonment cum unemployment across the country.

Over the years, Nigerians have witnessed situations whereby the country’s annual budgets were padded, messed up after presentation, and not properly implemented. To demonstrate its seriousness on the budget proposal, government needs to plug the several loopholes through which public funds are being wasted.

AljazirahNigeria urges President Buhari to put viable policies and structured programmes in place to ensure that the contents of the budget are not misused or siphoned by politicians and government officials.  We also challenge the Buhari-led administration to hit the ground running in its quest to provide food, health, education, security and dividends of democracy to its already disheartened citizens. And finally, we also urge Nigerians to give President Muhammadu Buhari and his economic team a fighting chance to rectify the ills of the economy in 2018.

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