Great expectations, that was the feeling of many Nigerians as they watched with rapt attention last Friday when President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2016 Appropriation Bill into law, thus ending weeks of disagreement with the National Assembly.
Since its inception, many Nigerians had begun to question the change mantra of the Buhari administration under which it captured their votes. This is because rather than improve their lot like they thought, the economy seems to have taken a dive.
However, the mouthpieces of the administration whenever they had the chance, hinged the delay of the change promise on the delay in the passage of the appropriation bill.
Tagged: “Budget of Change”, Mr. Buhari presented the 2016 Appropriation Bill to joint session of the National Assembly last December, proposing N6.08 trillion as aggregate expenditure, before it was reduced by the lawmakers to N6.06 trillion.
The budget which is based on a number of parameters including: benchmark and crude oil production at US38 per barrel and 2.2000mbpd respectively and pegged at the exchange rate of N197/USD1 equally has an aggregate expenditure of N6, 060,677,358,227 and statutory transfers made of N351, 370,000,000.
Besides, it has a debt service pay off of N1, 475,320,000,000 with recurrent expenditure pegged at N2, 646,389,236,196, and capital expenditure at N1, 587,598,122,031 while fiscal deficit is N2,204,936,925,711.16 with a deficit/GDP of 2.14 per cent.
While attempting a comparative analysis of his budget and the immediate past administration, President Buhari said his administration has prioritised the repair and construction of roads within the country, unlike his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who earmarked very little for infrastructure.
“The signing of the budget today will trigger concerted efforts to reflate the Nigerian economy, a key element of which is an immediate injection of N350bn into the economy by way of capital projects,” he said.
Nigerians from all walks of life have expressed mixed reactions over the 34 strategic priority programmes in the 2016 budget, saying the lists appear unwieldy.
Like previous administrations, the President Buhari-led administration has identified 34 strategic priority projects for this year, which in its view will help turnaround the economy, create employment, address the issue of insecurity, oil and gas reforms, rails and road construction, social projects, amongst others.
Laudable as these objectives sound, not many Nigerians are persuaded that they are achievable within the length of time that is left for the budget year.
Read also: At last, Buhari signs 2016 budget
A cross-section of economic and financial experts argue that much as the government is desirous of achieving some laudable programmes for the citizenry it is better to manage their expectations.
Firing the first salvo, Dr. Austin Nweze, a political economist with the Pan Atlantic University, of the Lagos Business School, described as unrealistic the promise by the Federal Government to complete 34 projects within the 2016 budget year.
Nweze, who fell short of accusing the government of running a voodoo economy, said the promise clearly shows that the government is trying to overreach itself.
“I don’t know how much he can achieve in six months. Some of the budgets I suspect will run into other budget years. I don’t think much can be achieved within six months.’’
Expatiating, Nweze who is also a policy analyst, said he would rather the government be more realistic than continue to idealise.
“He is always overpromising and under delivering and if you over promise and under deliver it is more dangerous. It is better you under promise and over deliver than the other way round. This government has promised so much and they have not delivered much. So the thing is that how do you manage expectations of Nigerians?’’
Budget alone, he said, “will not solve all the problems. It’s a mistake. The budget alone cannot solve the yearnings of Nigerians. It depends on the institutions. Institutions drive economic growth otherwise we’re going back to square one. We need to strengthen these institutions because it is the institutions that would make sure the budget is well implemented. These are the issues that we need to look at.’’
Echoing similar sentiments, Emmanuel Ekong, a financial analyst said the budget appears beautiful on paper but may be a different ball game when it comes to implementation. He would however want Nigerians to give the government the benefit of the doubt rather than jump into conclusion just yet.
In the view of Chief Timothy Adesiyan, Executive National President, Nigeria Shareholders Solidarity Association, unlike the past budgets which had more recurrent expenditures and less capital expenditure, the 2016 budget is a clear departure.
He is optimistic that things would turn around for the economy but with a caveat: “If the budget is well implemented.”
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