The National Assembly is yet to pass the budget because it does not want to make mistake
By Anayo Ezugwu
AGAIN, the National Assembly has failed to pass the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget. The joint Senate and House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations failed to present the budget at the Senate on Wednesday, May 9.
The National Assembly had promised to pass the budget on Tuesday, April 24, but failed to meet the target. Unlike in April when the lawmakers cited the enormous volume of work before committees, this time around the lawmakers said they are putting finishing touches on the budget. They also promised that the budget would be laid before the Senate on Tuesday, May 15.
After the plenary, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said the committee was being careful not to make mistakes. “The report will be laid on Tuesday and by Wednesday, we will approve it. The good thing is that it is the harmonised version (that will be laid). So, whatever is laid in the Senate will be laid in the House of Representatives, and it will be considered and passed the same time,” he said.
Also, the House of Representatives had defended the National Assembly’s failure to pass the 2018 Appropriation as earlier planned. The House stated that some details of the N8.612 trillion budget had yet to be fine-tuned by the Joint Committee on Appropriations.
Consequently, financial experts have said that the continued delay in the passage of the budget was affecting the recovery of the economy. The experts said it was shameful that the appropriation bill, which was submitted to the National Assembly in November 2017, was yet to be passed.
Uche Uwaleke, head of department, Banking and Finance, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said the blame game by the lawmakers was not good for economic growth and development.
According to him, blaming the ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, for not providing the required information on their budgets showed that the lawmakers are yet to get the budget formulation process right.
“Going forward, this crucial stage of the budget process needs to be made more transparent and inclusive with the input of the National Assembly accommodated at the early stage before the document is finalised and formally presented for consideration. More importantly, specifying timelines for stages of the budget is needed now more than ever before,” he said.
On his part, Austin Nweze, lecturer, Pan-Atlantic University and economic analyst, said the delay in passing the budget is affecting the economy. He said in an ideal society budget is supposed to run from January 1 to December 31, but in Nigeria budget starts in May.
“Basically, it holds down the entire economic activities because government involvement in business is over 75 percent, which is not good but that is the way the economy is structured. Government still has great influence on the economy. So with the delay, economic activities cannot happen until the document becomes a legal,” he said.
In the past five years, statistics has shown that the average percentage expenditure of overall national budget implementation is 22 per cent. In 2017, the implementation of the capital component was only 21 per cent. It was the lowest in five years. This could explain why many critical capital projects like railways, roads, hospitals, healthcare facilities were either stalled or abandoned due to non-release of funds. Last year, the implementation of the capital component of the budget resulted in a deficit of N1.7 trillion against the N2.18 trillion earmarked in the budget.
The 2018 budget may suffer worse fate if the delay drags longer. That is one of the reasons the federal government could not achieve the 70:30 ratio for recurrent and capital expenditure implementation it promised. It is only an early passage of the budget and its significant implementation that will actualise the budget’s set objectives.
The N8.612 trillion budget for 2018 proposal is up from N7.44 trillion appropriated in 2017 by N1.17 trillion. But it is unclear what the final figure that the National Assembly will pass will be. Some of the proposals from the President are recurrent cost, N3.494 trillion; capital expenditure, N2.652 trillion; debt servicing, N2.014 trillion; and statutory transfers, N456 billion.
– May 11, 2018 @ 18:15 GMT |