Doubts over execution as Buhari presents 2019 budget

The 2019 budget might be doomed to a failure of implementation due to its hasty preparation and generic computations. Fiscal experts were also quick to add that the outcome of the “yearly ritual” would largely depend on the political weather following next year’s general elections.This is as the House of Representatives yesterday gave the nod to President Muhammadu Buhari to present the 2019 Appropriation Bill today.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 requires the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which undergirds the preparation, to be ready before the end of the second quarter (June).A check by The Guardian however showed that as at mid-October, there was no mention of the MTEF in public circle.

The dramatic approval and compilation of the fiscal appropriation proposal in less than three months therefore call to question when and how stakeholders’ input was aggregated.A fiscal governance campaigner, Eze Onykpere, queried: “Where is the 2018 federal budget? To what extent have we implemented its capital components? What is the level of capital budget implementation? We just went for the Eurobond, so at what time do we intend to utilise it?”

He described the budget presentation as a stunt and an attempt to merely fulfill righteousness. There is no basis for optimism on a budget presented to the National Assembly on December 19, he said.“The Christmas and New Year legislative break has already started and the National Assembly is just waiting to receive the budget before it proceeds on its vacation. Of course, it is a notorious fact that we are in the season of campaigns and no reasonable person expects the legislature to touch the budget until after the elections, sometimes in March 2019.”

He added: “The performance of the 2019 federal budget will depend on the results of the 2019 presidential election. We can only predict what the incumbent will do if he is re-elected. But for now, it is wait and see.”The current administration has reneged on its plan to return the nation’s fiscal calendar to the January-December cycle, even as it withholds assent to the bill that would institute a definite timeline and process across all governments.

While presenting the 2018 budget proposal in November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari had indicated his intention to return the financial year to the former pattern, blaming the National Assembly for delaying approval of the budget. But the recent delay might have exonerated the lawmakers.

An Abuja-based development consultant, Jide Ojo, regretted that the budget process worsened under this administration. “Even the presentation on December 19 is threatened by the strike of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) and walkout by members of the House of Representatives.

“The executive, which has been tardy with the budget preparations is to blame. Imagine that the 2019–2021 MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) was sent to the National Assembly on November 6, 2018. This delayed budget presentation is a blatant breach of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.

“This uncoordinated and capricious budgeting by the Federal Government will impact negatively on the implementation and performance of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan as well as the newly launched economic blueprint of the Buhari administration.

“As things stand, the 2019 budget, even if presented on December 19, will not be passed till after the 2019 elections. That will impact negatively on the private sector and indeed the public sector’s economic planning,” said Ojo.

Speaking on the withheld assent to the budget timeframe amendments, Dr. David Agu of the Heritage Institute, said: “Any course of action, other than the needed assent, will be a great disservice to the long-suffering people of Nigeria. There must be irreducible minimum levels of cooperation between the two arms of government, no matter the situation. What is going on now is part of the constitutional architecture that can only promote dictatorship in both the long and short term.”

About 50 of the 360 members of the House of Representatives had forced their way into the chamber yesterday, in spite of the strike by PASAN.

As early as 9:00 a.m., heavily armed security personnel from the Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) took up positions around the legislative complex.Clerk of the National Assembly Sani Omolori justified the deployment, saying it was aimed at ensuring law and order.

He said the security operatives have a two-fold mandate: ensure the striking workers keep to the lawful limits of their industrial action and allow access by other persons who have lawful businesses to carry out on the premises.“If President Buhari is unable to present the budget proposal on Wednesday, as scheduled, Nigerians should hold the security agencies responsible for failing in the performance of their duties,” Omolori said.


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