The federal government has presented a 2014 budget of N4.6 trillion which it says will promote inclusive growth and create job. But critics doubt that the lofty objectives will be achieved because the recurrent expenditure will gulp 72 percent of the budget
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Jan. 6, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
MIXED reactions have continued to trail the 2014 budget of N4.6 triilion presented to the National Assembly December 19. The budget is skewed in favour of recurrent expenditure which is gulping about 72 percent while capital expenditure is getting only 27 percent of the budget estimate. Although the budget is aimed at inclusive growth and creating more jobs in the economy, the amount slated for the capital expenditure does not give much hope that the lofty objectives will be realised. This is why some Nigerians feel the budget will not achieve much while others expressed the hope that the areas targeted by the capital budget such as agriculture will achieve the target.
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, is of the view that there is no way allocating 27 percent to capital expenditure which is the special area where jobs and infrastructural development will happen will work. “It is not a budget that will create jobs, it is not a budget that will alleviate poverty but a budget for sharing money and looting as usual. I cannot understand how sensitive areas like health, agriculture and water resources are not given top priority in the budget,” Rafsanjani was quoted in Daily Trust as saying.
But Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of finance and co-ordinating minister of the economy, who presented the budget on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan assured that the “budget is for job creation and inclusive growth; meaning that it is a budget which will continue the president’s transformation agenda for several sectors of the economy. The budget is going to support the push in agriculture; it will kick-start the housing sector where we can create more jobs; it is designed to promote our policies that would support manufacturing because jobs would be created there. Industries will also be created in solid minerals. All these support will continued to be unleashed. Job creation is the key to really solving the problems of the Nigerian economy.”
This notwithstanding, one thing that worried Nigerians is the late presentation of the budget. Most Nigerians thought that the federal government has broken the jinx of late presentation and passage of the budget last year when the budget was presented to the National Assembly in October 2012. But this year the budget was delayed and the date for its presentation shifted several times. Several factors contributed to the delay in the presentation of the budget, especially the disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the crude oil benchmark. The budget was originally scheduled for November 12, but Jonathan requested the legislators to reschedule it for November 19, due to circumstances beyond his control.
The request was granted by both chambers and the lawmakers looked forward to receiving the president a week later. But the president failed to show up again on that day. This time, Jonathan cited the inability of the two arms of the National Assembly to reach an agreement on the benchmark price for oil revenue for next year as contained in the medium term expenditure framework, MTEF, as his reason for not showing up.
The president had explained his absence thus: “Please recall that I had written requesting the Honourable House of Representatives to grant me the slot of 12 noon on Tuesday, 19th November, 2013 to enable me address a Joint Session of the National Assembly on the 2014 Budget. However, considering the fact that, whereas the Distinguished Senate has approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF, based on a benchmark of $76.5 per barrel, the honourable House of Representatives has used a benchmark of $79 per barrel, it is infeasible for me to present the budget in the absence of a harmonised position on the MTEF. In the circumstance, it has become necessary to defer the presentation of the 2014 Budget to a Joint Session of the National Assembly until such a time when both respected chambers would have harmonised their positions on the MTEF. It is my hope that this will be in the shortest possible time. Please accept honourable speaker, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.”
But unlike what happened on the previous occasion, Jonathan’s second excuse did not go down well with certain lawmakers from the senate and the House of Representatives. Perhaps because it happened at a time when the country’s political atmosphere was charged, some of the lawmakers read political meanings to the excuse. They alleged that contrary to the issues of MTEF, the real reason why Jonathan did not come was because of the crises rocking the people’s democratic party, PDP, where he is a member. They said he was trying to avoid an embarrassing reception from some aggrieved lawmakers, especially those loyal to the Kawu Baraje-led faction.
However, the lawmakers got over their disagreement to pegged the crude oil benchmark at $77.5, thus paving the way for the executive arm of the government to present the 2014 budget to them. The lawmakers had expected Jonathan to present the budget himself, but the president delegated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to stand in for him. Okonjo-Iweala was accompanied by Bright Okogu director-general of the budget office and some of her colleagues in the cabinet.
Perhaps, because the presentation came at a time when the lawmakers were preparing to close shop for the year, none of them complained about Jonathan’s absence when Okonjo-Iweala laid the document on the table. David Mark, the senate president, said Okonjo Iweala’s action was in conformity with section 81 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which empowered the president to communicate the budget to the National Assembly.
The 2014 budget proposed revenue for the period is N3.73trillion while N1.1trillion is for capital expenditure. Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the SURE-P fund was not part of the estimated budget.
She added that the N1.1trillion for capital expenditure represents 27 per cent of the budget while the recurrent expenditure of N3.5 trillion represents 72 per cent of the budget. “The distinguishing feature between the 2013 budget and the 2014 budget is the focus we have on really continuing the successes that we had had in 2013 in creating jobs for young Nigerians and we are going to push it.”
Okonjo-Iweala also said the budget is for job creation and inclusive growth. “This budget is the budget for job creation and inclusive growth, meaning that, it is a budget which will continue the President’s transformation agenda for several sectors of the economy.”