By Fred Nwaozor
On Thursday, November 30, 2017, the Executive Governor of Cross-River State, Prof. Ben Ayade categorically presented his administration’s 2018 appropriation bill to the state’s legislators. To the people’s utmost surprise, the execution of the proposed budget tagged ‘Kinetic crystallizations’ was estimated to cost 1.3 trillion naira. The budget had over 200% increment as against that of 2017 of 301 billion naira. 70% of the budget was estimated to be utilized on capital expenditure whilst 30% would go for recurrent expenditure.
While I was trying to fathom how Cross River got to this point, on Monday December 11, 2017, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode presented another budget proposal worth up to a trillion naira. The budget, which was branded ‘Budget of progress and development’, was estimated to be serviced with 1.046 trillion naira with about 28.67% increase compared to that of 2017 of 812 billion naira.
The ratio of the capital to recurrent of the Lagos historic budget was given as 67/33% amounting approximately to N699bn and N347bn, respectively. The governor revealed that the estimate for total revenue of the year 2018 was N897.423bn, whereby N720.123bn was to be generated internally and N148.699bn to be sourced through deficit financing within the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). Meanwhile, we were not notified how the remaining N28.601bn would be realized.
Gov. Ambode equally disclosed that as at November 2017, the state’s revenue performed at N448.396bn at 76% compared to the full year’s performances in 2016 of N449.609bn at 83% as well as N399.382bn at 82% for 2015. These statistics indicate that the total revenue for 2017 may not be up to 83 per cent as against that of the previous year (2016) let alone outshining the worth of the said fiscal year. This implies that there’s a foreseen drop of revenue in the state, thus 2018 might not be exceptional.
To acknowledge that some states in Nigeria now compete with the country in terms of budgetary is arguably a thing of worry for any concerned sane mindset. The ongoing astronomical increase of the annual budgets of most states across the federation has become a scenario that requires an unbiased analysis and review by every relevant stakeholder.
For states like Lagos, whose major Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is usually derived from tax, to come up with a budget proposal of N1.046tn amidst a recessionary era is really ill-advised. As weeks unfold, the rate of redundancy all over Nigeria gets to a different alarming level, signalling possible liquidation of most existing firms in the nearest future; yet, a proposed annual budget that mainly depends on tax would be estimated to cost over a trillion naira.
The above assertion shows that in the long run, over fifty per cent of the budget might be financed by funds sourced via borrowing. Aside borrowing owing to contingencies, the budget is already a deficit budget because the estimated total revenue is less than the total fund budgeted. Such a measure, which has inadvertently become a norm in Nigeria, does not augur well for any entity or individual involved that truly wishes to emerge financially buoyant.
That of Cross-River – a state that is majorly dependent on oil and gas – is as well another mind-boggling compilation. It’s not anymore news that by the day, everyone lives in scepticism as regards what the fate of the oil industry entails in the contemporary global society, thus Nigeria isn’t an exception over the lingering fear of the unknown.
I would say unequivocally that some of the clauses captioned in the Prof. Ayade’s 2018 budget proposal were mere frivolities. For instance, N2bn is budgeted for school feeding programme. The question here is; is the state really in need of such approach? Rather than discuss how to better the lives of the citizenry in their entirety so that they can take care of their homes, we are discussing how to feed their wards. Teach them how to fish, and not to feed them with fish.
Same is applicable to the N52bn mapped out for social welfare, to cater for the aged. If the children of the targeted beneficiaries are comfortable, they don’t need to be fed by the government. Similarly, the N7bn to be expended on the state’s job centre toward training unemployed youths with ‘marketable job skills’ is needless. The government is expected to rather concentrate on how to create an enabling environment that would enable the youth to explore or commercialize their respective patents. Among all, how long can these projects be sustained?
It’s equally noteworthy that some of the clauses mentioned in any of the aforementioned budgets might end up implementing white elephant projects that have remained a monster in our present days’ democracy, hence one of the prime needs for the two concerned legislative chambers to holistically examine the appropriation bills critically before passing them.
However, since price of goods and services remain the main determinant of the cost of servicing any budget, as prices of commodities continue to skyrocket unabated in the Nigeria’s markets on a daily basis, the total estimated funds for these budgets have the tendency of emerging far higher during the concerned fiscal year.
Nwaozor writes from Owerri