Budget is an important policy document of government that details how government allocates resources among various competing needs such as national defense, public safety, infrastructure, education and health care. These and others naturally contend for attention and funding from government decision-makers. Government’s limited resources logically require making decisive verdicts about what policies and programs to fund and at what level. This decision-making process could inherently be political, thus making budget also a political document.
In Lagos State, one feature that has become synonymous with budget presentation since 2015 is the clarity of purpose that manifests itself from the beginning to the end of the whole budgeting process. This has been the case from the first full budget of the present administration in 2016 christened: “The People’s Budget” through the 2017 Budget christened “The Golden Jubilee Budget” (as it coincided with the State’s 50th anniversary).
The 2018 Budget tagged “Budget of Progress and Development” sufficiently declared the intention of Government to consolidate on the achievements recorded in infrastructure, education, transportation/traffic management, security and health sectors as well as capacity building for all Public Servants, including teachers and health workers. Precisely, the 2019 Budget, presented on Tuesday, 6th of February, 2019, was carefully prepared to ensure the completion of major ongoing projects in the State.
One other distinct feature of budget in the state in the last four years is the high ratio of Capital to Recurrent expenditure. This is consistent with the current administration’s policy of shrinking overhead costs in order to free more resources for fixed intensive investments. Just like the previous ones, N462.757 billion, representing 54 percent of the total budget had been earmarked for capital expenditure, while N389.560billion, representing 46 percent, had been dedicated to recurrent expenditure. This is to enable government complete key projects across the state such as the Oshodi-Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road and Oshodi Interchange Terminal, among others.
Until recently, members of the public including political scientists focused on the approval of budget requests and ignored budget execution. Lagos State budget has always been embedded with unique feature of reporting performance of previous ones. From the 2019 budget estimate, the state government has unequivocally allayed the fears in some quarters concerning what will happen to some of the major ongoing projects in the state. Evidence could be inferred from the fact that in the 2019 budget, as was with previous budgets, Economic Affairs still dominates the sectoral allocation of the proposed budget.
From the inception of the current administration in Lagos State, nine key areas were given priority after careful assessment of the crucial needs of the citizenry. These include security, transport / traffic management, economy -including tourism and agriculture, housing, education, health, infrastructure – social and physical, water, wealth creation – skill acquisition/microfinance, e-Governance and enhanced capacity building, sustainable environment and smart city projects.
This explains why sectoral breakdown of the 2018 estimate shows that General Public Service got N171,623 billion, representing 16.41 percent; Public Order and Safety, N46,612bn, representing 4.46; Economic Affairs, N473, 866bn, 45.30 percent; Environmental Protection, N54,582bn, representing 5.22 percent while Housing and Community Amenities got N59,904 billion, representing 5.73 percent. Health got N92, 676billion, representing 8.86 percent; Recreation, Culture and Religion got N12, 511 billion, representing 1.20 percent; Education got N126,302 billion representing 12.07 percent, while Social Protection got N8,042 billion, representing 0.77 percent.
No doubt, the State has done and still doing lots of right things under the present administration that will be indelible in the minds of the people. As distinct from others who don’t place high premium on the sanctity of electoral promises, the Lagos Budgets have been faithfully executed with its positive impact being felt across the State. Part of the concrete proofs of the implementations of Budgets in the state is the opening up of rural areas as a result of massive investment in rural road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.
Obviously, as it is with every government budget, funding and financing remain the singular biggest challenge faced by the state in her effort to meet budgetary expectations. For instance, the overall budget performance for the previous year stands at 60% and revenue is dwindling while expenditure is escalating. Nevertheless, the efforts of the state government in cutting overheads cost in favour of capital expenditures remains quite commendable.
Perhaps, more importantly, it is very inspiring that the result of recent impact assessment done by the state government shows that critical sectors such as Health, Education, Environment, Tourism, Infrastructure and Security, are experiencing marked improvements. In terms of literacy level, for example, the level in the state is above the National Average. In terms of life expectancy, the life expectancy in Lagos State is above the National Average with much more advanced environment like Johannesburg. The implication of this is enhanced security, improved healthcare and invariably better quality of life. The number of patients to doctors is also improving as reflected in life expectancy. Equally, the number of still births and deaths is also gradually reducing.
From all indications, with the availability of the required financial resources, with the 2019 Budget, the state government would accomplish its objective of completing key infrastructure projects that are meant to make life much easier for Lagos residents.
Musbau writes from Lagos