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Hope receding on 2018 budget

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MOST economists and financial experts agree that Nigeria, due to oil woes, was bound to experience a mild economic decline in 2016 but most probably, not a full-blown recession. That the economy declined by 1.56 per cent that year on the aggregate can be blamed on the failure of the government to define a clear economic direction and get the 2016 budget passed in good time.

Similarly, the performance for 2017 which was announced as 0.82 per cent might have been better if the budget was passed early enough. The most obvious repercussion of not passing the two budgets on time was the transfer of government spending, which would have stimulated the economy during that year, to the next.

The cardinal reason our leaders in Abuja are so careless about late passage of annual budgets is that the Presidency and the National Assembly do not seem to understand that time is also an economic resource which must be carefully optimised to achieve maximum results.

The 2018 budget is once again in danger of being over-delayed due to lack of expeditious leadership from the Executive and the Legislature. Ministers and heads of agencies repeatedly fail to appear before committees to defend their budgets. In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari recently had to specially order the heads of these executive bodies to defend their budgets before the National Assembly before Friday, March 16, 2018. In which democracy of the world do we often hear the leader of the country having to give orders publicly before ministers and bureaucrats do their routine jobs?

The National Assembly Committees that conduct the budget processing activities are often accused of harassing the executive bodies  for gratifications before they perform the jobs for which they are elected as representatives of the Nigerian people.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian people get poorer each year the nation fails to meet its budgetary goals. The optimistic forecast that the economy will grow at 2.5 per cent this year will miss the mark with our population outgrowing it at 3 per cent. These serial budget delays will simply worsen matters.

Meanwhile, the 2019 budget will be submitted to the NASS in the midst of the election campaigns. It is the verdict of history that such budget, when presented to lawmakers, becomes hostage to politics, which is already shaping up to be nasty and uncompromising. Unless care is taken, the result of executing the 2019 budget, whenever it is passed, might further depress our per capita income to recession levels.

It may already be late in the four-year tenure of this regime. However, it will pay the economy handsomely if the Presidency and the lawmakers put aside their egos and political differences and tackle the budget before the high tide of 2019 electioneering politics catches up with us.


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