Budget 2017: Again, Nigerians wait for Buhari’s ‘change’

Budget 2017: Again, Nigerians wait for Buhari’s ‘change’

Just as they did in 2016, Nigerians wait with bated breath for the effects of the 2017 budget to trickle on their socio-economic and political lives.

By Tosin Omoniyi, Gbenga Odunsi

The Nigerian Government recently presented a breakdown of its budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year.

This was after many months of controversies between its team and the Executive.

The analysis follows the presentation of a ‘budget of recovery and growth’ by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, December 14.

The 2017 budget is based on a crude oil benchmark price of $42.50 per barrel, with an output of 2.2 million barrels per day.

The highlights of the budget include improved business environment, governance as well as security of lives and property.

A critical look at the N7.441 trillion 2017 budget, against the N6.06 trillion figures for 2016 budget shows a more ambitious approach of course so there are more concrete expectations attached to it.

The 2017 figure has an increase of 20.4% over the 2016 figure.

In addition, the government will spend a huge part of 2017 national revenue to service debts, pay salaries and run every day business of governance. Analysts say nothing much has changed in the government’s priorities which tend to focus on spending rather than generating revenue.

Furthermore, the 2017 budget showed there was no allocation was made for new minimum wage or salary increment for government workers in the proposed budget for 2017.

The workers in their hundreds recently during the May Day celebrations held government officials hostage over poor working conditions and the unwillingness of the government to accede to the their age long requests of increment.

Again an offshoot of Nigeria’s budget shows that gross domestic product ratio remained very low, because the country’s tax to GDP ratio was the lowest among its peer economies, like South Africa, over the years.

Also, despite South Africa’s 2016/2017 fiscal deficit at 3.2 per cent, the country’s budget spending last year was about $143.966 billion, against Nigeria’s proposed $23.928 billion in 2017.

While campaigning across the country ahead of the 2015 general elections, the All Progressives Congress, (APC), had adopted “Change” as its central campaign theme.

To convince Nigerians it could change the nearly hopeless situation and offer a better deal, the APC unveiled an ambitious manifesto, arguably one of the most elaborate in Nigeria’s political history.

The APC Nigerians promised national security, economic development policies, transparency amongst others.

The country is yet to witness in concrete terms the change touted by the administration, week long interaction this medium had with Nigerians shows.

Many Nigerians are rather disenchanted with the strides made by the government and want it to rekindle their hopes and aspirations.

For Georgina Oluoma, a business woman and entrepreneur, she is yet to be persuaded that the budget will change her life for the better.

“The budget has not even been approved and this may lead to another round of controversies. Besides they are saying there’s no money to execute it, yet they are recovering billions from looter daily. It doesn’t just tally,’’ she says.

The controversy that surrounded the presentation of the 2017 budget no doubt cast doubt on the integrity of the government and its ability to stay true to its anti-corruption stance.

The APC-led administration has not lived up to its manifestoes and campaign promises, many Nigerians insists.

“The 2017 budget has fallen short of the realities on ground. One had expected that the worsening economic situation would compel the federal government to look inward, cut excessive expenditure on unrealistic things and invest more on domestic manufacturing such as agriculture, solid minerals, etc. Unfortunately, Government is even proposing to borrow for recurrent expenditure. No country in a recession does that; no country that wants to develop does that. The deficit is far higher than the capital component of the budget and the borrowing is a lot higher so you should understand we are borrowing to feed,’’ Isuma Isuma, a public affairs analyst and journalist tells Aljazirah Nigeria bitterly.

For Adetomiwa Adetilewa, a US based politician and social mobilizer, the 2017 is already a disaster waiting to happen.

“5 months gone out of the 12 months fiscal calender, the budget is not signed yet. Secondly almost 1/3 of the budget will go into debt servicing while the budget is having more than a trillion deficit. The budget is not reflecting any hope of growing the economy. It is a clear sign of disaster yet to happen….’’ he enthuses.

We are on course says APC

Meanwhile despite misgivings about the budget, the APC says it has met the expectations of Nigerians and will further build on its successes.

The National Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the government and the party have reasons to celebrate if the situation of Nigeria is looked at “closely”.

Abdullahi, in an interview with journalists yesterday in Abuja said President Muhammadu Buhari promised to focus on three key issues; fight against insecurity, a renewed battle against corruption and economy.

The APC spokesman said there might be temptation to say that nothing had been achieved because of the difficulties being experienced by Nigerians, media report indicated.

He, however, said that the fact that no part of the country was now under the Boko Haram group which has also released over 100 among the Chibok girls kidnapped three years ago, was worthy of celebration.

He said corruption, which had been considered a ‘normal’ practice in the past, is now being tackled head-on as more achievements are being recorded following introduction of the whistle-blower policy by the federal government.

“Two years down the line, what is the size of Nigeria territory occupied by Boko Haram? Zero, including the dreaded Sambisa forest. For us, this is a remarkable achievement and we believe that in that respect, President Buhari and the government of APC have justified the purpose of coming to power. Yes, many of the Chibok girls are still in captivity, but some of them have been recovered and more are still being recovered.

“For the parents of those recovered, you cannot tell them there is no reason to celebrate. For those who had to abandon their families and homes two years ago because of the menace of Boko Haram and have returned home today, you cannot tell them that there is nothing to celebrate.

“Let us take the issue of corruption….you hear people talking about whistleblowers, people talk about huge amount of money being recovered, people being dragged before the court and former governors being remanded in prison custody for corrupt practices. You hear about former ministers being held in detention and prison for corruption. These are things that were almost impossible two years ago. The challenges are still there, but this is the progress we have made in two years.

“For us, we would also like to argue that there is the tendency to look at the APC from the perspective of the federal government. But the performance of the APC as a party is the aggregate of the performance of our 24 state government. You go to each of our 24 states and you will find out from the people the progress that has been made in two years in those respective states.

“So, when you want to assess whether the APC has delivered or has justified our being in existence, then you have to look at the totality of the federal government and the 24 states that are being governed by the APC. So, we believe that we have a lot of reasons to celebrate. The reality which we have acknowledged is that the economic recession has created difficulty and those hardships still exist and nobody has ever denied that reality.” To tackle the challenge of youth unemployment, Abdullahi said it required a new and comprehensive approach.

“You hear about NPower which is what is being done at the moment among others. Like I said, unless we go back to the nature of our education that retools young people for a different kind of occupation, we will continue to deal with this. So, I believe that it is not something that we can say we have solved in two years.

“It is a problem that needs to be dealt with, but when you are operating an economy in recession, it is even more difficult to manage the impact that some of these things can have. But you will agree with me that if the President promised three things and he has delivered well on two and he still has two years to go, I think he has done well,” he said.