PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, while presenting the 2018 Budget to the joint session of the National Assembly, NASS, made a crucial confession couched as a promise. He promised to raise the implementation of the 2017 Budget to “about 50 per cent” by the end of December this year.
It was a clear admission that as late as November of this year, the percentage of budget implementation is less than 50 per cent. Buhari did not disclose how far the nation is from half-way mark. Some analysts have projected that implementation is as low as 25 per cent for the first 10 months of the year.
Irrespective of the percentage achieved, Buhari’s statement constitutes the first concrete admission of what many critics of the administration have been saying. The 2017 Budget, like its 2016 predecessor is already a woeful failure. This came, largely, as a result of its late presentation to the National Assembly, which was complicated by the slow pace of legislative work before its approval for presidential assent on June 12, 2017 by the then Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Even at that, the Executive Branch, in its usual cavalier approach to urgent matters of public importance, caused much of the delay due to the health problems of the President who was recuperating in London. During this period, some meddlesome third parties within the corridors of power played negative politics which worsened the delay. A more expeditious approach would have been for the Acting President, to whom the President had transferred the full instruments of presidential power, to sign the budget once the National Assembly was through with in early May.
With two failed budgets in a row to its credit, Nigerians and the global community must be wondering how much reliance can be placed on the 2018 Budget given the fact that the same Economic Management Team is in place and there is no discernible change of orientation towards raising internally-generated revenue, encouraging the Public-Private-Partnership model and increasing taxes.
We are, however, gratified to note that the President’s ill-health is now a thing of the past, and we pray it will stay so. The proactive move to start the 2018 budgeting process well ahead of time is a sign that we have learnt from the past and are willing to improve on our acts. The 2018 budget has a fighting chance to do better than the efforts before it.
While we commend the President for his candid admission of the truth, we remind him and his officials that failure to meet at least the 50 per cent target will mean the regime would fail in delivering much of its campaign promises.
Efforts must therefore be doubled to conclude the 2018 budget on time and work hard on its implementation, despite the unfolding political season.