Tony Ademiluyi: Unmasking Budget 2016

President Muhammadu Buhari on getting to the National Assembly where he addressed a joint sitting apologized to the nation for the nauseating fuel scarcity in the country putting the blame on the doorstep of market speculators. However, there was no action packed strategy reeled out to Nigerians on how he intended to tackle the crisis beyond mere sloganeering. This contradicted the position of the garrulous minister for information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who put the blame at the doorstep of erstwhile President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. As the Spokesman of the government, we find this conflicting statement highly disturbing and points to a possible disconnect in the PMB cabinet so early in the day.

The budget at 6.08 trillion naira is the highest in the annals of our nation’s history saw it committing thirty percent of it towards capital expenditure. The President gave the nation hope that in future it will increase from that figure. The capital expenditure is aligned to meet the long term objectives to sustainable development. Given the vagaries of the oil and gas sector which is the mainstay of the economy, it made a whole lot of sense to peg the benchmark at $38 per barrel. However the decision to borrow a whopping 1.9 trillion naira representing about 2.16 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product is capable of greatly mortgaging the future of generations yet unborn. The borrowing agenda is still rather hazy: From which source? We hope it is not from the Bretton Woods Institutions as they have recently been lending their voice to the management of our economic matters. They have been ferocious in their call for the yanking off of the fuel subsidy without any framework for the building of new refineries to cushion the initial early effects. We cannot have amnesia to forget how their loans have crippled the economies of third world nations which we sadly have remained since independence due to our refusal to develop our own homegrown economic agenda that would best suit us. We must resist any temptation to source any of that borrowing from their sinister institutions. I recommend Walter Rodney’s evergreen masterpiece ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’ to be part of the reading list for those on the economic team. Nigeria doesn’t need any humungous borrowing. The proposed 1.9 trillion naira should be drastically reviewed downwards as there is no need to become a member of the Paris Club once more and go there cap in hand begging for debt reliefs.

For the first time, education is getting visible attention as it got the second highest chunk of the sectorial allocation with the vote of 369 billion. We commend the administration for heeding the call of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation for allocating at least twenty-six percent of its budgetary allocation to education. This isn’t up to that percentage but this is the best deal we have gotten so far. The proposed decision laid out by the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige to employ 500,000 youths as graduate teachers is highly pro-people and youth friendly. It’s a much needed relief and soothing balm to the teeming number of unemployed and unemployable youths. However, half a million youths is a mere drop in the ocean when you consider the alarming statistics reeled out by the National Bureau of Statistics that over ten million youths are unemployed. Job creation anywhere in the world is private sector driven. As expected infrastructure as represented by the Power, Works and Housing Ministries got the highest chunk of the allocation with 433 billion given to it. It must go beyond votes. The enabling environment which would encourage entrepreneurs to spring up must be created. The reality of the information age has rendered the education – a byproduct of the industrial age largely obsolete. There should be a drastic shift in the curriculum right from the cradle to reflect this novel reality. There should be a national culture of self -reliance to get the nation out of the woods. The success of this culture is dependent on massive industrialization. The budget must be indicative of an agenda to get this sleeping giant industrialized in a manner reminiscent of the Asian Tigers. The budget implementation must take critical steps to curb import dependence and expand our revenue base through harnessing the power of human capital development. The move towards projecting the mining sector as the next thing after oil is a good one but the world has long advanced beyond mineral resources. Mineral resources is finite but that of human capital is infinite. We expected a budgetary allocation for the development of human capital if we are to stand on our two feet as a Sovereign Nation in a way typical of our Japan got up in barely nineteen years after the battering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War.

The budget seems to have a job creation agenda which is a critical concern of the ailing economy. Renowned Political Economist, Prof. Pat Utomi called budget implementations in Nigeria a joke on Channels Television few hours before Buhari read out this one. We hope the implementers prove the erudite intellectual wrong. For the first time, the budget implementation won’t be a core function of the finance ministry as it has been transferred to the national planning ministry. Let us hope this signals a good omen for the New Year which will unfold in a matter of hours.

Let’s hope that the change slogan which this government used to bring itself into power doesn’t end up in the citizenry asking what is the difference between six and half a dozen?


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