•Utomi, others react
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Isaac Anumihe and Bimbola Oyesola
President Muhammadu Buhari has said some ministries may get significantly fewer capital allocations than they received in 2016 while others may receive more allocations in the 2017 budget.
This was even as the administration prioritises key sectors to get the economy out of recession.
Buhari disclosed these yesterday in Abuja at a one-day retreat for Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDGs) with financial experts invited to present and discuss priority areas in next year’s budget.
President Buhari had, in Nairobi, Kenya last month, pledged to vote more resources to agriculture in the 2017 budget as his government moves to sustain concrete measures to diversify the economy.
The retreat with the theme: “Building Inter-ministerial Synergy for Effective Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria”, was part of government’s moves for early presentation of the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly. It aims at delivering improved understanding of measures being taken to get the country out of recession; improve synergy among the various ministries for enhanced implementation of planning and budget.
Speaking at the opening at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja, the president noted that over the years, there had been a mismatch between planned targets and budgetary outcomes at the national and sectoral levels.
The MDAs, Buhari stated, have not benefitted significantly from working together and building consensus around common national objectives. This, according to him, has impeded growth and development of the country.
The president, who said he expected the retreat to come up with practical solutions on the way forward to bring out a set of prioritised projects and programmes that will fit into the 2017 Budget.
“Let me inform you that because of the need to focus on our key priorities, some ministries may get significantly less capital allocation than they received in 2016 while others may get significantly more…
“Indeed, the challenges we face in the current recession require ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, to deploy strategies that involve engaging meaningfully with the private sector, to raise the level of private sector investment in the economy as a whole.
“We are confident that the level of private investment will grow as we are determined to make it easier to do business in Nigeria by the reforms we are introducing under the auspices of the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business.”
President Buhari reiterated that his government would continue to strategise on how to turn current challenges into opportunities for the nation and especially for thhe vibrant youth on whose shoulders lies the future of this nation.
“This is why we have embarked on measures and actions that will open up the opportunities we have seen in the Power, Housing, Agriculture, Mining, Trade and Investment, Information Communication Technology (ICT) Sectors, Tourism, Transport and other sectors.
“I wish to reassure its teeming youth that this Government would remain steadfast in its effort to ensure greater progress and prosperity for you.
“While government is taking the lead in the task of repositioning our economy for change, we cannot achieve this completely by ourselves. We will need, and we ask for the support and cooperation of the private sector’s domestic and foreign investors, the States and Local Governments, the National Assembly and the Judiciary as well as all well-meaning Nigerians in this important task. We are confident that working together, we shall succeed”.
Earlier, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said Nigerians were warned about the current recession.
She said government “sympathises with the people of Nigeria, but, what is more serious is our intentions, our resolve and plans to turn it around, we have said it before that we knew we were going to go into a very difficult period.
Reactions are, however, trailing the move to reduce and increase MDAs allocations in 2017.
Pat Utomi, professor of political economy and management expert said whatever figure NASS approves is binding in law.
“If a budget for a ministry, department and agency of government is approved by the National Assembly, it then becomes a law and nobody can change it except he goes back to the National Assembly…According to that document, it is the legislative that has the power to disburse an approved budget which also implies that there is no taxation without representation.
“It is the taxpayers’ money that we are talking about so, the National Assembly must approve of any such proposal coming from the Executive before it can be implemented.The Executive can make a proposal but the legislative has the power to the purse.”
For the Organised Private Sector (OPS), the slash was inevitable bearing in mind the dwindling government revenues, both from the oil and Internal Generated Revenue (IGR), coupled with closure of many businesses.
President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Frank Jacobs, said the slash was okay, provided it was done in fairness to the organisations and in relation to the economy.
Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, shared Jacobs’ views that the slash should not in affect the operating expenditure of the agencies.
Yusuf, who noted that there must have been a framework for the budget slashing, however, advised that the cut should not be on equal basis, as some of the agencies are more buoyant than the others in terms of revenue generation.
He said: “for those who generate more revenue, it may lead to bloated spending and hence may be good to reduce their allocation. But some are not so robust in revenue generation, so government may need to think of these MDAs revenue base and their operating expenditure. The same principle of percentage slash across board may not be applicable here. It is important to think of the critical operating cost.”