…Promises early passage of 2018 budget
By Bimbola Oyesola
The Federal Government on Tuesday, disclosed that the current economic recession will end in 18 months. To achieve this, it has called on the private sector to partner with it. This was as it disclosed that the 2018 budget will be ready in October this year.
Making the call at the Fourth Presidential Quarterly Business Forum in Abuja, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, stated the need for Nigeria to make progress despite obvious budgetary constraints, while promising a major turnaround for the economy in the next 12 to 18 months.
In his Democracy Day speech, Osinbajo had identified the economy as the biggest challenge faced by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Admittedly, the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of all,” he said, noting that it was a challenge the administration took seriously, considering the impact the recession was having on Nigerians.
The Acting President said government has been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices that Nigerians have had to make over the last few years, but expressed optimism that the administration was on the right path to turn things around for the better.
Also speaking, Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, indicated that mobilising revenue through tax collection to fund the budget was crucial because the nation could no longer afford to borrow.
She challenged the private sector to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme offered by the government to curb leakages in the system.
In another development, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said that the executive has commenced the process for the preparation of the 2018 budget with a view to getting it ready in October.
According to him, this will enable Nigeria return to budget cycle of January to December.
Addressing the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and 60th Anniversary of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA) in Lagos, Senator Udoma, said the executive has commenced the process for the preparation of the 2018 budget.
“Our aim is to submit it to the National Assembly by October this year, to allow them sufficient time for deliberation and passage”, he said.
The Minister said by the executive calculation, the budget should be ready for assent by December and by January 2018 begins full implementation to enable it run its normal course unlike the present situation where the 2017 budget implementation was just commencing in the second half of the year.
He stated that the recurrent delay in budget implementation was worrisome to the federal government, assuring the business community of government’s resolve to solve the problem.
“The National Assembly has agreed with us that it could be done. If we say we are partnering with the private sector then we should let the budget come early so that they can plan effectively”, the minister said.
Udoma lamented the current economic challenges of the Buhari Administration, which he attributed to the problem of over dependent on crude oil exports, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings. He, however, explained that the administration is committed to the success of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to explore options for generating additional revenues by the restructuring and privatisation of carefully-selected public enterprises and assets.
“Our revenue mobilisation efforts also involve, amongst other things, introducing measures to increase our independent revenues from our revenue generating agencies, as well as, cutting out waste by intensifying our current efforts to plug revenue leakages and inefficiencies in government spending. It is in this respect, that the Acting President recently signed an Executive Order on Submission of Annual Budgetary Estimates by all Statutory and Non-statutory agencies and Federal Government Owned Enterprises”, he said.
He added that government is also exploring ways of improving tax revenue by expanding the tax base, as opposed to raising the tax rates.
“Our tax/GDP rate, currently at six per cent, is one of the lowest in the world. From available statistics, only 214 people in the entire nation of 180 million people pay taxes exceeding N20 million – with all of them based in Lagos State. Of an estimated 69.9 million eligible tax payers, only 14 million are active tax payers. As part of the effort towards improving our revenue performance, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo recently declared a tax amnesty by signing an Executive Order called the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS).”he said
The Minister assured NECA and other members of the Organised Private Sector that government agencies will work with the private sector to support research with a view to developing high quality indigenous products and technologies as well as embark on massive infrastructure development.
In his remarks, NECA President, Mr Larry Ettah condemned the high rate of employment in the country, saying that it has turned to a social and security issue which could undermi. ne the stability of the country.
“Given the scope of this problem, we certainly have to go outside the usual government rhetoric on what we want to do or what we are doing and the unproductive administrative backed up with results.”