5th February, 2014
In December last year, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, on behalf of the Federal Government, presented N4.6 trillion for the Fiscal Year 2014 to the National Assembly for ratification. Of that figure, N3.7 trillion will cover recurrent expenditure while only N1.1 trillion is earmarked for developmental or capital projects. This translates to 76.3 percent for recurrent expenditure and just 23.7 percent for capital expenditure. The proposed budget christened ‘Budget for Job Creation and Growth’ represents N100 billion reduction from the N4.7 trillion that was budgeted for last year.
A budget, which is the Annual Financial Statement of the country estimating the anticipated government revenues and government expenditures for the ensuing (current) financial year, is mandatorily passed by the legislature, approved by the president and presented by the Finance Minister to the nation. However, the usual wide gulf between the recurrent and capital expenditures, which is also repeated in the 2014 budget, negates the proposed theme of this year’s budget in terms of job creation and growth.
Many believe that the national budget process is fast becoming a mere annual procedural ritual to fulfill a legal condition rather than a scrutiny on efficient resource allocation and use for the welfare of the people. There have even been instances where the budget was scorned and hardly executed above 50 percent. All blames go to the National Assembly which has the constitutional right to clinically vet the proposed appropriation bill and monitor its full implementation.
As rightly pointed out by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, a member of the National Assembly, several aspects of the 2014 proposed budget are fraught with lopsidedness which could adversely affect development. The budget gives undue priority to irrelevant and frivolous issues rather than tailored toward improving the welfare of the majority of the people. An example is the glaring misplacement of priority as demonstrated in the huge allocation of N54 billion to Niger Delta militants as welfare packages under a spurious amnesty programme while the Military and the Police saddled with maintaining the internal and external security of the country got just N46 billion. The police in particular got a paltry N6 billion in capital allocations. For a government beset by security and unemployment challenges, such appropriation beggars belief.
Senator Saraki’ submission could be described as reawakening and educative, but he and his colleagues in the National Assembly have also received flaks for culpability in covering the budgeting farce all along. It is obvious that the present crises rocking the legislature over the defection of some members to other parties have helped to expose this unpardonable shoddy scrutiny of the budget year after year.
We expect that a new era, starting with the 2014 proposed budget, will be engendered at the National Assembly where proper scrutiny and anomalies in the budget will be pointed out and the executive is forced to right the wrong. As some pundits have also suggested, if there is no legal duty for this, there should be moral duty for the protection of the people. The National Assembly must stop shirking its responsibility to the people henceforth..
Security of life and property is the primary reason why government exists. And for the Federal Government to achieve its desire of job creation and sustainable growth, we believe that it owes the Nigerian people a responsible, balanced budget. A balanced budget implemented with less impunity will definitely foster a healthier economy and help create jobs to provide employment for millions of Nigeria youths roaming the streets.