From Fred Itua and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, presented the 2017 budget proposal to a joint session of the National Assembly. The President also cashed in on the presentation of the budget to unveil his economic recovery plan to lawmakers.
Buhari, who arrived at about 1.59pm, as against the earlier scheduled time of 10am, tagged the proposal as ‘Budget of Recovery and Growth’.
He said as part of plans to get the country out of recession, the Federal Government decided to devote more resources to some critical sectors of the economy.
Unlike the 2016 budget where Works, Housing and Power got N433.4 billion, the same Ministry in the 2017 budget received a proposal of N529 billion.
Ministry of Transport got N262 billion. In the 2016 budget, the same ministry got N202 billion.
Buhari revealed that the Judiciary budget has been increased from N70 billion to N100 billion. He said the increase in funding is further meant to enhance the independence of the judiciary and enable them perform their functions effectively.
On recurrent expenditure, N482.37 billion will be spent by the Ministry of Interior, N398.01 billion by Ministry of Education, N325.87 billion by Ministry of Defence and N252.87 billion by Ministry of Health.
Special Intervention Programmes will gulp N150 billion while Defence will get N140 billion for capital expenditure.
Water Resources will get N85 billion, Industry, Trade and Investment will get N81 billion.
Similarly, Interior will get N63 billion for capital expenditure and Education will get N50 billion.
Universal Basic Education will get N92 billion, while Health gets N51 billion. The Federal Capital Territory will receive N37 billion, while Niger Delta Ministry gets N33 billion. Niger Delta Development Commission on the other hand gets N61 billion.
About N100 billion has been provided in the Special Intervention programme as seed money into the N1 trillion Family Homes Fund that which the President said will underpin a new social housing programme.
“This substantial expenditure is expected to stimulate construction activity throughout the country,” he said.
Explaining further, he said: “Efforts to fast-track the modernisation of our railway system will receive further boost through the allocation of N213.14 billion as counterpart funding for the Lagos-Kano, Calabar-Lagos, Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri railway and Kaduna-Abuja railway projects. As I mentioned earlier, in 2016, we invested a lot of time ensuring the paper work is done properly while negotiating the best deal for Nigeria. I must admit this took longer than expected, but I am optimistic that these projects will commence in 2017 for all to see.
“Agriculture remains the heart of our efforts to diversify the economy and the proposed allocation to the sector this year is at a historic high of N92 billion. This sum will complement the existing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and CBN to boost agricultural productivity through increased intervention funding at single digit interest rate under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, commercial agricultural credit scheme and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending. Accordingly, our agricultural policy will focus on the integrated development of the agricultural sector by facilitating access to inputs, improving market access, providing equipment and storage as well as supporting the development of commodity exchanges.
“The 2017 Budget estimates retains the allocation of N500 billion to the Special Intervention programme consisting of the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment Programme, N-Power Job Creation Programme to provide loans for traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families and the new Family Homes Fund (social housing scheme).
“The allocation for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been increased to N65 billion in the 2017 Budget. Furthermore, N45 billion in funding has been provisioned for the rehabilitation of the North East to complement the funds domiciled at the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative as well as commitments received from the multinational donors.”
Although the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) currently before both chambers of the National Assembly have already captured other aspects of the budget, President Buhari, however, re-echoed some of them.
He said the 2017 budget oil benchmark will be pegged at $42.50. This is a departure from $38 per barrel which was used for 2016 budget.
The daily oil production volume for 2017, he said, would be retained at 2.2 million barrel. The exchange rate was put at N305 to a dollar. The new exchange rate is significantly higher than that of 2016. The 2016 budget exchange rate was pegged at N197 to a dollar.
Buhari said a total of N10 trillion is being targeted by the Federal Government as revenue during the 2017 fiscal year. Out of this amount, about N5 trillion is expected to be generated from the sale of crude oil.
Non-oil revenues will rake in about N5.06 trillion. These revenues are expected to come from corporate and company taxes, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, Stamp Duties, capital gains tax, value added tax, Customs, excise, fees, surcharges on luxury items, special levies and Federal Government independent revenue.
Out of the N7.298 trillion, President Buhari said N1.488 trillion will be spent on servicing domestic debts. In 2016 budget, the Federal Government earmarked N1.307 trillion.
On foreign debt, the Federal Government will spend N175.882 billion. It spent N54.480 on foreign debt servicing in the 2016 budget.
On capital expenditures, the Federal Government budgeted N2.058 trillion. In the 2016 budget, N1.587 was earmarked by the Federal Government for capital projects.
Recurrent expenditures will gulp N1.866 trillion. About N1.748 was budgeted for the same purpose in the 2016 Appropriation. The new figure is coming, despite claims by the Federal Government that thousands of ghost workers have been yanked off from government’s payroll.
The Federal Government also intends to borrow a total of N2.321 trillion. Out of this, N1.253 will be sourced locally, while N1.067 will be got from foreign sources. In the 2016 budget, N1.182 was reportedly borrowed locally, while N635.8 billion was got through foreign borrowing.
Some lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives expressed divergent views on the budget.
Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi said: “There is improvement from what we got last year. From the budget, the executive is very ambitious by increasing spending on capital projects. We have more for the road, agriculture, infrastructure and other areas.
“We believe that they have done their home work better than what they did last year. By the time the details are submitted, we will begin to see what they have done. We are hopeful.
“One area that interests me is the increase in budget for the judiciary. They have added N30 billion. We want to see the judiciary improve. We will do the needful and ensure that things are done right this time round unlike in previous years.
“When we consider the MTEF, we will know if the exchange rate is realistic. We will look at it then. What we had last year was unrealistic, but I cannot say for now if this will be different. We have to wait and see.”
Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdurarak Namdas said: “As far I am concerned, the budget is okay, but we need to work on it. There will be inputs from lawmakers to make it good for the entire country.
“I can see that the President has increased the capital expenditure from N1.8 trillion to over N2 trillion in 2017. My only concern is whether we can produce 2.2 million barrels per day.”
Another member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Sergius Ogun said: “We are hopeful like the President tagged it ‘Budget of Recovery’, it will take us out of recession. The items contained in the budget are achievable. Even the daily production of 2.2 million barrels per day is achievable as long as there is peace in the Niger Delta.”