Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has picked holes in the 2021 Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday.
The president presented the 2021 budget proposal of N13.08 trillion to the joint session of the National Assembly for consideration and eventual passage before the end of the year.
However, in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists on Friday, Atiku said the 2021 budget proposal contravened the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
He added that the loopholes in the budget are capable of stiffening growth and expansion of the nation’s economy next year.
The ex-vice president said: “The budget deficit in the proposal is ₦5.21 trillion. This amount is just over 3.5 percent of Nigeria’s 2019 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is contrary to the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007, which provides in Part II, Section 12, subsection 1 that, ‘aggregate expenditure and the aggregate amount appropriated by the National Assembly for each financial year shall not be more than the estimated aggregate revenue plus a deficit, not exceeding three percent of the estimated Gross Domestic Product or any sustainable percentage as may be determined by the National Assembly for each financial year.
“Nigeria had a GDP of approximately $447 billion in 2019. Three percent of this amount is $13. 3 billion, which at the current official exchange rate of ₦379 to $1, gives you a figure of ₦5.07 trillion. So clearly, the budget deficit of ₦5.21 trillion, as announced by President Muhammadu, is above 3 percent of our GDP and is therefore in contravention of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007.
“Even more disturbing is the fact that our GDP has fallen sharply from its 2019 figures, and has been projected by the World Bank and other multilateral institutions at somewhere between $400 billion and $350 billion. Meaning that in actual sense, the ₦5.21 trillion budget deficits is actually far above the three percent threshold stipulated by the FRA.
“That this escaped the notice of the Buhari administration shows a glaring lack of rigour in the formulation of the budget; a very disturbing development.
“Furthermore, this deficit shows the precarious state of our national finances, which have since been overburdened by excessive borrowing on the part of the Buhari administration.
“It has not escaped my attention that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 makes provision for the National Assembly to raise the threshold of the budget deficit from three percent to a higher figure. However, if this is done, they will be serving this administration’s interests, not Nigeria’s, because the Act says that such a threshold must be sustainable. Is it sustainable when our budget makes almost as much provision for debt servicing, as it does for capital expenditure?
“As such, I call on the president, to recall this budget, and recalibrate it to reflect the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007, and the current economic realities of the nation. To do otherwise will not only be unpatriotic, it will also be catastrophic for our nation’s economy.”
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