2016 Budget: Nigeria’s Bogus Budget Deficit and Alternatives for Fortunes By Olawale Rotimi
Since 1999, most of the fiscal budgets of the Nigerian government has followed an increasing dimension in figures; in 1999: N0.524 trillion, 2000: N0.702 trillion including a supplementary budget of N0.49 passed in May 2000, 2001: N0.894 trillion, 2002: N0.840 trillion but N1.06 trillion was authorized, 2003: N1.446 trillion, 2004: N1.189 trillion was presented before the Nigerian Parliament, 2005: N1.618 trillion was presented but N1.799 trillion was authorized, 2006: N1.89 trillion, 2007: N2.7 trillion, 2008: N2.45 trillion, 2009: N2.67 trillion, 2010: N4.6 trillion, 2011: N4.972 trillion, 2012: N4.8 trillion, 2013: N4.9 trillion, 2014: N4.6 trillion, 2015: N4.493 trillion excluding a supplementary budget of N466 billion in November 2015. Each of the above budgets comes with its central theme which comprehensively states the areas it will address such as youth empowerment, infrastructural development e.t.c. However, evident in the growing social issues these budgets are designed to address, it is not unclear that they haven’t ameliorated the situation of Nigeria. This cannot be disconnected from corruption, weak implementation, and lack of sustainability among others.
For many years, running the nation’s budget on deficit has become intrinsic but this is not peculiar to Nigeria. The peculiarity lies in the poor implementation. For example, the 2007 federal budget focused on the theme: “to accelerate investments in Basic Physical and Human Resources Capital” which implies that the government expenditure was to be channeled towards completing on-going projects in power, water, roads, security, education and health sub-sectors. An assessment, as of the day this article was compiled, the Federal government’s Lagos-Ibadan express way which has been under reconstruction before 2007 is yet to be completed, the Oyo-Ogbomosho Federal express way is far from been completed among several others across the country in various sector. Thus, how will this budget be rated when after its implementation, there are huge infrastructural deficiencies even in the areas it targeted? This same 2007 budget, serviced debt with N326 billion and provided for a deficit of N0.5trillion, an equivalent of 2.9 percent of GDP which was to be financed from proceeds of sales of government properties and domestic borrowings.
The 2007 Federal budget which focused on accelerating investments in Basic Physical and Human Resources Capital, which implies that government expenditure was to be channeled towards completing on-going projects in power, water, roads e.t.c. However, assessing the 2007 budget, this budget recorded low outcome. Corruption, government’s lack of accountability and transparency are major reasons why Nigerian budgets have failed in the past. The challenges facing Nigeria’s 2016 budget are critical, distinct from the previous ones. Its challenges are not limited to accountability, transparency and implementation; they extend to raising capital to fund the budget and the bogus deficit to be incurred in funding the budget. Nigeria has set a high budget at a period when the price of oil, which is the backbone of the nation’s economy, has dropped in depressing dimension. Earlier, the presidency had placed oil benchmark price at $40 per barrel, while oil price has fallen to $30 dollars. This implies that expected national revenue from oil will fall.
In a period like this, alternatives to generate revenue must be devised to save the economy from crumbling. Nigeria has to return to the pre-oil economy, sources of revenue during the pre-oil era must be revisited to revitalize our economy in the face of falling oil prices in the global market. The pre-oil Nigerian economy was based on agriculture, natural resources and industry such as textile. That Nigeria has to return to agriculture cannot be overemphasized. Agriculture should be explored as the major branch of Nigeria’s economy. Currently, it provides 30 percent employment for the populace. Blessed with abundant land and water resources, exploring the agricultural sector will go a long way in boosting Nigeria’s economy in the face of global oil crisis. Brazil, China, India are examples of nations that have made fortune from Agriculture. Plunging into huge debt will not save Nigeria’s economy, rather it will sabotage it, Nigeria has to reconcile herself with agriculture.