There has been widespread criticism of the proposed 2014 budget, titled “‘A Budget for Job Creation and Growth”, which the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) presented to the National Assembly last December. A spectacular feature of this budget is that it allocates 76.3% to recurrent expenditure (comprising personnel and overheads costs, including consumables of N3.7 trillion) and 23.7% to capital expenditure (N1.1 trillion). As it is currently structured, the proposed budget warns of a lag in infrastructural development, while more resources would be deployed towards servicing the skyrocketing costs of running government at the center.
The budget proposals provoked heated online conversations in Spaces for Change’s Discussion Forum where a broad spectrum of young Nigerian professionals and experts in various fields interrogated the economic policy direction of the budget and the underlying preparatory processes. One recurrent question was whether the hyped macro-economic successes and brightly-colored foreign ratings of the Nigerian economy have translated to concrete social and economic benefits to millions of citizens. Discussants underscored the urgency for the National Assembly to take concrete steps towards adjusting the budget so as to make its pro-job objectives realizable.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Governor Damian Undoubtedly, economic growth without development is counterproductive. The fact is that Africa has ten or more of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world for the past 10 years, but there has been little improvement in lives of the poor across the continent in terms of alleviation of poverty, improved employment opportunities and improved standard of living. Let us remember that without drastic and comprehensive reforms, economic growth would continue to be hijacked by the tiny elite in power in collaboration with their cronies and allies both in government and in the private sector. The examples of Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Angola, which had witnessed unprecedented economic growth in the last ten years without commensurate development because of massive corruption and cronyism in their governments offers a template to the policy makers in Nigeria, that without good governance, the poor will not benefit from economic growth and hence it becomes an exercise in futility. Caxton Fatanmi: The root, stem and branch of our problem with economic planning and management is the quality of civil service that we have. Budget preparation is a real work done by cerebral people _ the number-crunchers! As it is, the Nigerian budget looks like a job done by ‘panel-beaters’ not people versed in Economic Science or the like. Mindful also that, worse than the politicians we all love to hate, the civil service in Nigeria is the most corrupt, so ill-prepared for the modern management techniques. Nigeria in 2014 should do better.
Look at Singapore! This country was also a British colony, dirt-poor at independence; but being blessed with a visionary leadership and a world-class civil service, the island state is punching way above its weight. Blaming the Finance Minister for the poor quality budget may be overkill, though she too should have done better with the services of outside auditors and consultants. Making the same civil servants who will spend the money to also prepare, vet and present the budget as a fait accompli is an exercise in poor Governance. Our budget should have a parameter, an objective. Just writing a budget with a view to spending money belongs to the Republic of Fools. Reading the budget makes one wish to ask a question whether FGN has qualified economists in its payroll. Shred the paper and do it afresh, please.
BuchiObasi Any growth without absolute redistributive income is criminal. Olusegun Mark Oludoyi: This budget is a disaster. One would have expected something different under Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala….But hell no, we got a “copy and paste” budget process. Ayodele Emmanuel: NOI has missed it. We are back with budget of hopelessness when recurrent expenditure leads capital expenditure. GbengaKomolafe As long as our economy is planned and managed by foreign interests, antagonistic to our quest for real development, we would continue to stumble and wobble so pathetically. Francis Kenzie-Enyinna Show me one European economy that is being run positively on IMF/World Bank statistics or was revived by these institutions and I will show you many that was and still being ruined by their indices. Saya-Braide-Ebi: My fear is this constant weaving of theories surrounding IMF and 3rd world countries and now making NOI part of the players. She is doing a great job given the circumstances in Nigerian economy.
The state of our economy is not a feeling, bring the figures. One factor in this feeling data over figure data that informed some of this criticism of NOI and our budget is lack of understanding of the budget process. It’s laughable when people talk as if the national budget is a document NOI prepared secretly in her bedroom scribbled out. It’s not NOI that will stop crude oil theft, and other vices that’s destroying our economy.
Governor Damian:Yes, the government is desperate for foreign accolades and commendation, but the root cause of the problem lies in the economic ministry becoming part and parcel of the political strategy and campaign arm of the administration. Okonjo-Iweala herself knows the pitfall of using GDP as a measure of progress and development by virtue of her upbringing and education in the United States as even the founding fathers of GDP warned against using it as a measuring rod to capture all that is in development. They were supported by the former Attorney general of the United States Robert Kennedy who criticized the idea of using only mathematical calculations like GDP to measure the lives of people. The reason NOI is doing that is because she has enmeshed herself into the political machinations of the Goodluck administration; hence it’s impossible to extricate sheer populism from concrete economic policy and good governance.
We need economic growth in Nigeria but for the gains of the growth to reach the majority of the population-much more radical reforms and restructurings must and should be undertaken by the government, and they know it thou they may not acknowledge it in public- especially the Minister of Finance herself. Politics and economics indeed do mix with devastating consequences for the ordinary man.
Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri: Being part of the political machinations of the government is not bad per se. It only becomes bad if it is allowed to distract her coordinating functions to the extent of obscuring planning and efficiency in economic management. Perhaps, she should have settled for just minister of finance role. Coordinating Minister of the Economy may be too much of a portfolio for one person to handle. Olusegun Mark Oludoyi: The fact is our budgets have always been studded with fraud, but what has NOI done differently? She has again prepared a budget that accommodates N4Million for typewriters in the Ministry of Interior in 2014! Last year, we saw budget provisions for power generators at the NigerianEmbassy in London. Do they use generators in London? John Ogunlela: We must never forget that NOI’s power is limited, no matter how skillful she might be on the job: the political atmosphere of the government she serves is acrid enough to choke most good intentions and management skills. There are too many holes being constantly bored into her accounts by a very unaccountable government she works for. She mustbe be held liable, I know, but we must not allow ourselves forget the ramifications and the person at whose table the buck stops Otokinie Oliver Wokoma: Nigerians arguments are fed up with paper progress and that is why the house committee will address the figure issues when she appears before them. For example, if a government official says 20 million jobs have been created in the past two years; how can one provide counter figures when one doesn’t have access to verify the official figures and data. Bruce Ugiomoh But there is no appreciable increase in income tax, which proves the tissue of lies in the employment purported to have been generated! Caxton Fatanmi: But, then one does not need a Ph.D in monetary economics to see through the fallacies and inconsistencies in our budget preparation. A budget that is not based on tax revenue, but premised on a mono-culture, ditto, the price of oil, ought to and should be better tilted towards capital expenditure. The high percentage of recurrent expenditure on its own, is a cardinal sin in economic development. Budgeting to buy typewriters in 2014 or having allocated funds for diesel to power generator sets in our embassies abroad or maintenance of boats and aircrafts by the Embassy in Mali, a land-locked country, is an insult to our collective intelligence.
As for the huge job figures claimed to have been created is a figment of someone’s imagination. If not so, we would have seen such huge payroll reflecting in increased tax base for government. We need to be more truthful. This Budget is thrash !
Otokinie Oliver Wokoma During the last fuel protest Prof. Tam David West provided figures that it will cost less that N50 pee liter if we sell petrol at commercial rate. Nobody produced a counter figure instead the Professor was insulted but we are still paying more in subsidy even after the increase to N97. We were lied to, that the original designers of the refineries will be refurbished, but many years after, no improvement seen on the refineries. Venatus Okafor: You do not need a degree in development economics to know that an extended HDI is the simplest way to measure the economic well being of a nation and its citizenry. The emphasis should be on development which is partly reflected in Human Development Indices (HDI) of long healthy life (life expectancy), education, income and standard of living. And I think the HDI ought to be expanded to include metrics that can be used to measure jobs/unemployment rate and minimum wage in view of the cost of living in a given country. This should be in addition to infrastructural development index.
The 2014 budget is the worst any nation can have – a budget of which over 70% is recurrent expenditure, and yet is tagged a budget for jobs. Meanwhile when NOI joined GEJ government, she said that she was going to reduce recurrent expenditure. Nigeria is a BIG JOKE!!!