The National Assembly on Tuesday tasked the executive arm of government to take deliberate steps to make the 2018 Budget of N8.612 trillion a job-oriented one.
The Chairman of the National Assembly, Sen. Bukola Saraki, made the call at the presentation of the 2018 Budget proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari before the Joint Session of the assembly in Abuja.
He said while it was commendable that the present administration was making efforts at tackling unemployment through programmes like YouWin, N-Power, and YES-Programme, steps must be taken to make the 2018 budget a job oriented one.
“Looking around today, we see that many of our undergraduates are apprehensive about their graduation day.
“Our National Youth Corps members are not looking forward to the end of the service year, for fear of being tagged ‘unemployed’.
“As we are all aware, many businesses were adversely affected by the recession and many lost their means of livelihood.
“So, as the country emerges from that period of uncertainty, the question on the lips of many Nigerians has been how does the recovery translate into tangible economic benefits.
“We must remember that the real gains must be felt on a personal level by the individual, for economic recovery to have meaning. People are seeking to get back to work but cannot find jobs.
“Entrepreneurs want to restart their businesses but are finding it difficult to access the needed capitals. For farmers, the last thing they want is for what they produce to go to waste because people cannot afford to buy,’’ he said.
He called for the implementation of the procurement law, with emphasis on support for Made-In-Nigeria goods.
He stressed that the implementation of the 2018 Budget must anchor on the Made-In-Nigeria project, adding that it should be reflected in government procurement in 2018.
Saraki stressed that the National Assembly was working towards reviewing the Procurement Act to achieve the goal, adding that it would be in vain not to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy in the procurement process.
“Government should continue to create the enabling environment for private sector businesses to thrive through its policies and spending priorities.
“As we pat ourselves on the back that Nigeria has made a quantum leap, going up 24 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, we cannot rest on our laurels.
“There is a need to complement reforms in the ease of doing business with targeted spending on those critical infrastructure projects that enhance economic activity and job creation.
“ In view of this, we must move beyond budgetary provisions without adequate funding available for the execution of projects and ensure that selection of contractors, as well as release of funds, are transparent.
“We must therefore make project completion a top priority, especially those projects that directly impact the lives of our people.
“On our part, the eight National Assembly is standing firm on its objective of expanding economic opportunities through economic reform bills that we have prioritised.
“Some of these are beginning to affirm the vision of reforms that we need in order to move our country forward,’’ he said.
On mainstreaming social inclusion, Saraki stressed the need for equity and balanced development across the entire country.
He said infrastructural development should be seen to be well distributed to create growth pools away from the major city centres and drive the regeneration of our rural areas.
He pointed out that agriculture, for instance, would be meaningless without engaging in farming in the countryside.
“The current rate of rural-to-urban migration is alarming and unsustainable. Congesting the cities and stretching resources to breaking point, while undermining the economic viability of some states.
“People must be able to see a future for themselves in every corner of this country, not just in the big cities.
“There are big ticket projects like power, rail and A-Trunk roads; but also, there are smaller projects which impact people’s lives. We must do both. Those in charge should ensure proper execution or face sanction.
“It is important that I emphasise that the presentation of the budget should in no way dampen enthusiasm for the implementation of the 2017 Budget.
“Whatever needs to be done to ensure that we achieve close to full implementation of the budget, is what must be done.
Saraki called for a good working relationship between the executive and the legislature, adding that the early passage of the 2018 Budget would depend on the working relationship between the two arms of government.
He said the passage of important Executive bills that would improve ‘ease of doing business’ was also dependent on the relationship between the legislature and executive.
“The 469 members in this chamber are your true partners that will ensure the success of your administration in achieving its goals and objectives.
“So, lobby them (not the PDP way), close ranks and let them work for you.
“Let me assure Mr. President that in considering the 2018 Budget proposal, the National Assembly will work with your team, as we are convinced that more can be achieved together.
He called on parastatals and agencies that were meant to submit their budgets alongside the 2018 Budget Proposal presentation, as stipulated by the constitution to do so.
He said parastatals and agencies that failed to submit their budgets along side the 2018 budget would be sanctioned and denied access to capital expenditure.
He assured that the assembly would work to ensure that these were passed by the end of the year.