by Usman Alabi
By now we can say for ourselves the extent of the change brought about by the budget especially at a time when we are told that change begins with us with a caveat that we cannot get the change promised unless we adjust our disposition to the state. Back to the budget of change, perhaps no budget in Nigeria’s recent democratic history had passed through what the 2016 budget passed through and that would probably explain the reason why the proposed change is yet to come. I call it tumultuous budget in an economically tumultuous year. Even after the passage of the budget, it has not stopped witnessing troubles, this time it is the inability to get funds to finance the budget.
The president submitted the budget in December 2015, the first storm that hit the boat came when we were told that the budget had gone missing in the house, yet this is the beginning of the several histrionics that the Nigerian political atmosphere is known for. Then there was the allegation of budget padding even though it was not a matter then probably because there was no lead actor as we have now in Jibrin. The executive claimed that the budget proposal had been distorted for selfish interest; the president said that the budget had been completely tampered with in comparison with what was sent to the house, padded with several constituency projects. On March 23rd, the budget was passed but it was N17 billion lower than the figure that was sent to the house which was N6.07 trillion. Then came the alleged distortion of the budget with some items missing and fresh ones added, one of which was the Lagos-Calabar rail project which was reportedly in the budget sent to NASS. Although NASS claimed that the project was not included in the budget but to rectify the situation, the senate then asked the executive to include the controversial project in a supplementary budget and forward it to the legislature.
Despite the travails of the budget, it is a budget of change. The 2016 budget exposed the politics and corruption and inefficiency that surrounds the budget from the point of drafting through the processes of passage down to implementation, it incriminates virtually all institutions of government including the MDAs. The budget opened up the system and gave us a choice of either reform or continuity. We were made to understand that the legislature cannot pad the budget without the help of the executive institution, and on several occasions, there were claims of mistakes made in the budget by ministries. So eventually when the budget was passed in May, we thought we had seen the last of the controversies, but the end is not here yet. The revelation of how the budget had been padded in the interest of a few surfaced, we had still not seen the end of that. There is the issue of the inability of the executive to implement the budget because of the drop in the nation’s revenue and unprecedented economic recession. States cannot pay salaries, government went borrowing. FG considers selling national assets to finance the budget. The question is with all these travails experienced by this budget, can it fulfill its desired end given the fact that we are in the final quarter. There are 34 specific and strategic priority areas in the budget which includes maintaining a capital spend minimum of 30% annually, to achieve an appropriation exchange regime, to increase low interest lending to the real sector at single digit, may be nine percent in order to increase output and growth, to attain self sufficiency in tomato paste in2016 and rice production by 2018, to increase local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock and to stop import.
But in the light of the present economic reality of recession with no actual or concrete end in sight, drop in oil revenue, two digit inflation, two digit 14% interest rate which deprives small businesses of the necessary capital for production, how is the 2016 budget with all these travails supposed to perform the magic wand. Recently the AFDB has announced its intention to give a loan of $1 billion naira to the federal government to finance the budget, to what extent can this assist the budget, and does it worth selling the national assets for. Only time would tell, but before then it would continue to be a budget of change in travail.