Shortly after the retreat at the Presidential Villa in the middle of this month, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, made some startling announcements which pointed to a deepening recession contrary to the assurances that it will soon be over.
The Minister told reporters that government had just released additional N350 billion for capital expenditure – bringing the total to N700 billion this year. However, Mrs Adeosun failed to tell her listeners that the budget in 2016 for capital is N1.8 trillion and that N700 billion represents 43 per cent of the year’s total with only one quarter of the year to go.
Obviously, the year-end actual expenditure on capital projects will barely exceed 50 per cent. That is bad news for a country whose major impediment to rapid growth had been infrastructural deficit. That deficit will grow larger by the end of this year.
Not done, the Minister also disclosed that N60 billion had been released for the Social Welfare Programme (SWP) for which a provision of N500 billion was made in the budget. Economists and some members of the National Assembly had questioned the lack of details regarding the N500 billion give-away programme.
Perhaps, the SWP is better deferred to 2017, as the funds might not be available. Nine months into the year and only 12 per cent of the budget is now just being released. It does not require a great deal of imagination to predict that this campaign promise cannot be realistically fulfilled this year.
Together the budgets for capital and social intervention add up to N2.3 trillion or 38 per cent of this year’s budget; yet only 36 per cent of their allocations have been provided by the end of the third quarter.
There are several tragedies involved in this year’s failed promises. The leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) merely made blind promises during the campaigns to grab power. There was no planning or strategy for implementation, which is why these promises have become an albatross on this administration.
They should have accepted the escape route offered by the National Assembly’s Joint Committee on Appropriations, which had initially thrown out the request from the budget this year. That would have given them more time to give the programme a second look.
If this administration is unable to fulfil its own campaign promises or implement its own budget successfully, it will have only itself to blame, and the people to answer to.
It is not yet too late for President Buhari to sit with his appointees and party leaders and streamline the APC Federal Government’s charter with Nigerians.