By KEHINDE AKINTOLA, OWEDE AGBAJILEKE & ELIZABETH ARCHIBONG, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday unveiled the administration’s plan to focus on rapid development of infrastructure especially on modernisation of railway system, roads and power with the 2017 N7.298 trillion budget he calls spending for “economic recovery and growth”.
He also assured that his administration’s resolve to address some of the legacy contractor liabilities inherited estimated at N2 trillion.
“We also have an ambitious programme for growing our digital platforms in order to modernise the Nigerian economy, support innovation and improve productivity and competitiveness. We will do this through increased spending on critical information technology infrastructure and also by promoting policies that facilitate investments in this vital sector.
“During 2016, we conducted a critical assessment of the power sector value chain, which is experiencing major funding issues. Although Government, through the CBN and other Development Finance Institutions has intervened, it is clear that more capital is needed. We must also resolve the problems of liquidity in the sector.
“On its part, Government has made provisions in its 2017 Budget to clear its outstanding electricity bills. This we hope, will provide the much needed liquidity injection to support the investors.
“In the delivery of critical infrastructure, we have developed specific models to partner with private capital, which recognize the constraints of limited public finances and incorporate learnings from the past. These tailor-made public private partnerships are being customized, in collaboration with some global players, to suit various sectors, and we trust that, the benefits of this new approach will come to fruition in 2017.
He also pledged to optimize the use of local content and empower local businesses in its effort towards economic recovery and growth plan for year 2017.
To achieve the feat, the assured that his administration’s commitment to aligning and underpin fiscal, monetary and trade policies by using policy instruments to promote import substitution while protecting public interest.
In the bid to achieve its revenue target for the year, Buhari reiterated the administration’s plan to achieve the 2.2mbpd crude oil production and invest the proceeds to revive our agriculture and industries.
“In addition, we will continue our ongoing reforms to enhance the efficiency of the management of our oil and gas resources. To this effect, from January 2017, the Federal Government will no longer make provision for Joint Venture cash-calls. Going forward, all Joint Venture operations shall be subjected to a new funding mechanism, which will allow for cost recovery. This new funding arrangement is expected to boost exploration and production activities, with resultant net positive impact on government revenues which can be allocated to infrastructure, agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors.
He disclosed that Federal Ministry of Environment was increased by N9.52 billion (an increase of 92% over the 2016 allocation) for climate change and leveraging private sector funding for the clean-up of the Niger Delta.
In th area of agricultural develooment, Buhari who applauded the successes recorded in the area of domestic rice production, disclosed that Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Organised Private Sector and a handful of Nigerian commercial banks, have embarked on an ambitious private sector-led N600 billion program to push us towards self-sufficiency in three years for these products.
To this end, he urged all State Governors to make available land to potential farmers for the purpose of this program.
In his remarks, Speaker Yakubu Dogara emphasised the need for President Buhari to create a new order in the budget implementation, just as he stressed the need foe him to add distorted budget cycle and abandoned capital projects/white elephant projects, to the list of things, in addition to corruption, that he must kill.
He observed that the lofty goals enshrined in the budget document presented by the President was designed to take Nigeria out of economic recession and achieve significant economic growth for our nation.
While expressing regrets over cwrtain frustrations on the annual budget cycle/process, Dogara stressed the need to unlock the full potentials of such budgets for the benefits of the citizens.
“This is because implementation and execution of the agreed Budget is always a major challenge year in year out. Sometimes, implementation rate is as low as 30%, most times it is never higher than 50% at the best of times. This has led to unacceptably high rate of abandonment of projects and distortions in Nigeria’s economic planning. Of course, this is an inherited problem for Mr President as he has only effectively passed through one Budget cycle.
“As I counseled last year, an Appropriation Act must be allowed to run for an uninterrupted period of twelve months, for the Executive to have enough time to execute it. This means that both Mr. President and the National Assembly must find a way to continue the execution of the 2016 Budget especially the capital component till May 6, 2017, which is twelve months from the date Mr President signed the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“This is also the clear intendment of the definition of a Financial Year in Section 318 of the Constitution. The problem is that most often the recurrent component of the Budget is implemented to an appreciable level, but the capital component execution is very low. It is crystal clear that the capital component of the 2016 Budget cannot realistically be implemented for only six months period considering the time required for procurement processes and the raising of the revenue including loans by government.
“Except something is done, this will result in yet another failed budget. A vicious cycle repeated every year. We must therefore put on our thinking caps and ensure that the change promised Nigerians is reflected in our budget process, as we cannot really make appreciable progress as a nation without significant implementation of the Capital component of the budget.
“This calls for creativity which cannot be realised if we do not lose our fear of being wrong. By being creative in this area, Mr President will build a new order that makes the existing order obsolete. There is no better way by which real change is attained.
While assuring Buhari’s of continued cooperation and partnership in all measures proposed to revamp our economy, stressed the need to make our annual budgets work for all our citizens, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
“This is a task all of us must be supremely devoted to. It was President J.F Kennedy, who in his timeless and resonating admonishment to the rich and powerful reminded us that, “if the society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”. Sadly, this is fast becoming true of our society right now,” Dogara said.