Some financial experts on Thursday said the Federal Government must change its approach towards the implementation and disbursement of the annual budget for it to impact positively on Nigerians.
The experts stated this in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, while reacting to the passage of the 2018 budget by the National Assembly, six months after it was presented by executive.
Mr Emeka Madubuike, immediate past President, Association of Stockbroking Houses of Nigeria (ASHON), who bemoaned the late passage of the budget, said implementation and disbursement were critical at the moment.
“It is not passing the budget that is the issue, the key thing is implementation. We have seen several budgets in this country but what is the impact?” Madubuike asked.
He said the country still had serious infrastructure gap, noting that proper implementation would help in reducing the infrastructure deficit for people to have hope in the country.
Madubuike called for synergy between the executive and legislature, noting that both arms were serving Nigerians.
“This distinction between the Senate and the executive is just an excuse and must be addressed in the interest of the country,” he said.
Prof. Uche Uwaleke, Head of Banking and Finance Department, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said the passage of the budget would increase the tempo of economic activities and speed up recovery efforts.
Uwaleke said the increased allocation for capital projects would lift the stock of infrastructure if well implemented and spur growth.
He said the passage of the budget would reduce uncertainties in the business environment and boost investors’ confidence.
Uwaleke also expressed optimism that the capital market would react positively to the passage of the budget.
Mr Ambrose Omordion, the Chief Operating Officer, InvestData Ltd., said the approval of the budget was good for the economy to boost activities and support economic recovery and development.
Omordion said the timing and upward adjustment of the budget figures were wrong considering that the budget stayed over six months before it was approved.
He called for proper monitoring of the budget to ensure effective implementation, noting that N1.5 trillion spent on infrastructure in the 2017 budget had not reflected on the economy.
Omordion said roads and power with direct bearing on the economy had remained in the worst state in spite of huge borrowing amidst rising oil prices.
According to him, the N9 trillion budget is part of preparation for 2019 elections for the executive and legislatures to do one project or the other for the people ahead of the elections.
“For the budget to make meaningful impact on the life of Nigerians and the economy, government must change its disbursement and implementation style so that project execution will be fast,” Omordion said.
He explained that the adjustment of oil benchmark price to 51 dollars per barrel against the initial 45 dollars per barrel was good considering the rallying in oil price.
Omordion said it was a good way of reducing borrowing to finance deficit budget and also to accommodate the N543 billion increment to execute their own constituency projects.
NAN reports that the Senate and the House of Representatives on May 16, passed the 2018 budget, raising it by N500 billion.
Both houses approved a budget that rose from N8.6 trillion to N9.1 trillion, six months after it was presented by the executive.
President Muhammadu Buhari presented the budget to a joint session of the National Assembly on Nov. 7, 2017.
Both houses of the National Assembly received the budget report of their appropriation committees.
At the Senate, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Mr Danjuma Goje, said the increase of N500 billion was done in consultation with the executive.
He said the increment was informed by a decision to increase oil benchmark from the proposed 45 dollars to 51 dollars.
The exchange rate of N305 to a dollar and production of 2.3 million barrels of oil per day were adopted as proposed by the executive.
Goje said the funds that would accrue from the increment would be spent on some projects already earmarked by the committee.
He said the surplus fund was spread on some ‘critical sectors’ in consultation with the executive. He gave a breakdown of how much would be spent on different sectors.
According to the report, N42.72 billion will be spent on security, N57. 15 billion on the 1 per cent vote for health as mandated by the National Health Act and N106.50 billion for the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
Other areas are; education, N15.7 billion, Judiciary, N10 billion and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), N44.20 billion.
He added that the increment would allow for a N50.88 billion deficit reduction.
In the final breakdown, the Senate passed a 2018 budget of N9, 120, 334, 988, 225 of which N530, 421, 368, 624 is for statutory transfers as against N456, 458, 654, 074 proposed by the executive.
N2, 203, 835, 365, 699 was budgeted for debt service as proposed while N190, 000, 000, 000 was budgeted for sinking fund for maturing loans.