EDO State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki presented a budget proposal of N150,011,831,079 for the 2017 fiscal year to the state House of Assembly for its consideration. While presenting the budget, the governor explained that the administration would maintain a balance of capital to recurrent expenditure (50%: 50%) in line with his administration’s plan to spend its way out of recession.
In the eight years of the former governor, Comrade Adams Oshimholel, he maintained a higher capital estimate over the recurrent expenditure. In fact, Oshiomhole was the first governor in Edo to reverse the lopsided budget which was traditionally weighing more on recurrent expenditure over and above capital expenditure year after year.
But given the current economic recession which has raised the rate of inflation to 18 per cent and a US Dollar exchanging for N305 at the official market rate, it becomes imperative for federating states to strike some sorts of balance between capital expenditure and recurrent expenses in such a way that the people in very desperate situations get government attention. This perhaps explains why the budget was pegged at a 50/50 ratio. It will not only consolidate the APC government’s development agenda for Edo people but would ensure that the poor and needy as well as middle income earners would be cushioned from the harsh economic conditions arising from the recession and possibly exit it completely.
A breakdown of the budget shows that about N22.2 billion was earmarked for the economic sector as a catalyst for economic growth and development in the course of 2017; N22.3bn on infrastructure development and upgrade; N3.179bn was also proposed for contributory pensions scheme and N6.034bn for outstanding gratuities and pensions while N6.6bn was proposed to be used to rebuild infrastructure of various institutions in the state.
Also, environment was allotted N6.9bn, social welfare enhancement N17.3bn towards provision of public healthcare, education, sports development, youths engagement and to insulate vulnerable groups-senior citizens, women and physically challenged; culture and tourism got N305 million, among others.
It is gratifying to note that the policy bedrock of the 2017 budget rests on economic revolution, infrastructural expansion, institutional reform, social welfare enhancement, culture and tourism and environmental sustainability.
One point that stands the budget out is the clear plan to address issues of pensions which has been a recurring problem inherited by the APC government from previous administrations. Setting up a clear plan to defray backlog of pensions is laudable and would definitely contribute to lifting many retirees from their current predicaments as such a plan would put money in their pockets to help not only themselves but their dependants. The grand design to migrate current state government workers into the contributory pension scheme is the icing in the cake for which a whooping sum of N6biilion has been earmarked for 2017. What is expected is that workers and pensioners alike in Edo State should reciprocate this clear commitment from the new government with renewed dedication to duty and being law abiding senior citizens respectively. I am convinced that if the many plans of Mr. Godwin Obaseki are pursued with uncommon focus, vigour and determination by all, it would help us build a new society, create jobs, new opportunities and wealth for those in business – and usher in a new era of prosperity for all Edo people.
There is no doubt that Nigerians, including Edo people are currently confronted with very serious social and economic and difficult challenges as the country is grappling with severe economic recession, with stunted economic growth, people losing their jobs; massive youths unemployment; with poverty and crime on the increase, the nation’s economy continues to be vulnerable and only a well thought out and articulated plan as contained in the 2017 budget can help lift the people out of the doldrums.
The Edo budget which has a deficit of N25 billion for 2017, has been explained by experts to be within the acceptable threshold, the implication is that such an amount would be funded from external borrowing. Gladly, the government is clear-headed as to where it plans to source such an amount from. The governor had explained that it will raise the deficit from the third tranche of the World Bank budget support facility.
The priorities in the 2017 are good. Some of them are: a continuation of ongoing infrastructural projects from the 2016 plans which is a continuity that did not happen in the past. Every new government wants to begin new projects but the Obaseki government is committed to completing on-going projects inherited from the Oshiomhole’s administration.
The budget also sets out to tackle institutional reforms needed to better prepare the civil service for optimal service delivery. Revamping the working environment of public officers, training and retraining of workers and the plan to improve the incentive structure of workers is quite commendable. This must also be reciprocated by increased productivity and more revenue to government. Also the plan to directly collect taxes, rents and rates as opposed to use of contractors is a very lofty idea as revenue contractors have become overnight billionaires while government revenue is short changed.
Edo people want to see government meet its promises to create jobs. It is good that the budget plans to address it. The governor said to achieve his promise of a minimum of 200,000 jobs within four years, his administration’s job creation strategy through series of outlined programmes include partnering private sector investors to recruit and offer training to out-growers and anchor farmers in specific crops and the state government have secured off takers.
It will equally be important that the government considers employing young people into the state civil service as there is currently a dearth of personnel in almost all government ministries, departments and agencies. Most should be deployed into the revenue collecting units and government must ensure that no cash collection by any revenue staff. All collections must be straight to government’s single account and properly receipted.
Above all, most reassuring is Obaseki’s plan to run a transparent and accountable government. It means the administration has nothing to hide which is the best thing Edo people will enjoy from his administration. It is therefore pertinent that the Edo State House of Assembly passes the 2017 budget as presented by the governor expeditiously.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State.