By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, has expressed fears over the national budget recently presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the foundation on which the budget was built is worrisome.
In reviewing the 2019 budget assumptions of the Federal Government, NECA expressed apprehension about the capacity of the budget to move the economy out of the woods, create jobs and improve the human capacity potential of Nigerians.
Sharing the employers’ thoughts on the budget in Lagos, Director General of NECA, Mr. Timothy Olawale, however, commended the President’s timely submission of the budget to the National Assembly.
Contending that the foundation on which the budget was built is worrisome, Mr. Olawala said: “The budget was benchmarked against $60 per barrel of oil at 2.3 million barrels per day, an exchange rate of N305 to $1, an inflation rate of 9.98 percent and a GDP growth rate of 3.01 percent.
“These assumptions negate the reality of oil price volatility. Oil industry experts had rightly warned that the political dynamics of the Middle East might drive down the price of crude.
“True to prediction, a barrel of crude today sells for less than the benchmarked price of US$60bpd.
“Also, it is yet unknown how government will increase our present 2.09mbpd crude production to 2.3mbpd in 2019 with recent challenges at the Niger Delta and OPEC’s resolution on cut in oil production pegging Nigeria’s daily output at 1.7mbpd.
“A cursory look at budgetary allocation to some critical sectors raises some germane questions about our readiness, as a nation to address certain fundamental questions.
“Human capital development has been noted as critical to a nation’s development. It is, therefore, worrisome that education was allocated N462.24 billion, which is less than six percent of the entire budget.
“This is a far cry from the UNESCO’s benchmark of 26 per cent of the national budget. A healthy nation is said to be a prosperous nation.
“The N315.62 billion, which represents a meagre 4.1 percent of the budget, tends to negate this mantra. This allocation also contrasts the pledge made by member-countries of African Union, AU, to commit a minimum of 15 percent of their annual budget to their health sector.”