• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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2024 budget: Between politics and governance (Part 1)

2024 budget: Between politics and governance (Part 1)

Beyond the conventional conversations about budgets, there are clear-cut messages that the 2024 budget holds for Nigerians.

Firstly, the stage is now set for an honest assessment of President Tinubu vis-à-vis his electoral promises as well as the relative competencies of his appointees. If he delivers on the revenue and expenditure projections, then there is capacity and expertise.

Secondly, the 10th National Assembly is corporately seeking to earn public confidence through a deliberate commitment to citizens’ well-being and transparency in legislative business.

Thirdly, collaboration in democratic governance is profoundly a viable option, especially in developing nations where the legislature and the executive take joint ownership of budgets for credibility.

Fourthly, a budget is productive only when it is robustly implemented through adequate funding, monitoring and evaluation. Again, a meaningful development is achieved only when the capital expenditure is higher than the recurrent as well as when revenue leakages are substantially plugged and or, budget padding is eliminated.

Then lastly, the performance of a budget can be predicted only when the budget is consistent with a manifesto or rooted in a functional strategic framework, and above all, under a president who is purposeful about the budget and also firmly in charge of his government.

But please, the veracity of these assertions is established as we read on.

Whether for politics or governance, President Bola Tinubu, while signing the budget into law did not leave anyone in doubt as to his determination to pursue a diligent performance of the budget.

And thankfully, the national assembly is on hand to play complementary roles within the ambit of the law. It has since activated relevant internal mechanisms for relative thoroughness and efficiency. For example, as against the old order, it adopted a joint-committee approach to the sectoral reviews of the budget proposal. There was ample time for the respective committees on Appropriation to take common stands on every allocation, unlike in the past when there had to be a special committee to harmonise the reports of both chambers thereby expending extra time and resources, including sundry distractions.

Again, the executive, through the ministries and agencies, was exceptionally open-minded and enthusiastic in addition to displaying an uncommon commitment to a shared vision. In the end, there was an unprecedented demonstration of interdependence and mutual respect among the two arms culminating in a hitch-free and timely passage of the budget.

Hence, Tinubu, with a sense of fulfilment, acknowledged that “I presented N27.5tn and left the room and I called for expeditious treatment of the budget, the review, the passing, the debate and all that. Today we have a budget of N28.7tn with an increase of N1.2tn over the proposal that I submitted. I thank the National Assembly for this prompt review, adjustment and auditing necessary. This is evidence and a great testament to the excellent relationship between the executive and the legislature. We should keep it up”.

Equally, he was emphatic that the budget was “anchored on reducing the deficit and increasing capital expenditure, particularly in our priority areas. The approved 2024 Budget that we just approved, achieves both objectives. It contained a very good increase in the capital side, a reduction in recurrent expenditure and it brought down the deficit from 6.11% to 3.88%. That, to me, is an achievement”. So, the 3rd and 4th messages above have been underscored!

Instructively, this is not the first time that the legislature is altering presidential budget estimates. It has always been largely motivated by political expediency and primordial sentiments. But today, there are logical justifications for the jerking up of the figures.

According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, “We expect the budget to deliver because there’s no sector that we did not cross-check, scrutinise and make enquiries as to what is required to make the desired impact to the economy and the people”. He further declared that “this is a budget that is going to define the Tinubu administration’s commitment to the people of this country”. Again, this echoes the first message!

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Solomon Adeola, revealed key economic changes. The removal of fuel subsidies and efforts to unify exchange rates impact Nigerians, affecting fuel and dollar prices. The president urged a thorough budget review, considering external consultations. Despite suggestions for a higher oil benchmark, they maintained conservatism at N490 billion. Of this, N44 billion is for statutory transfers, resulting in a net increase of N446 billion in the Federal Government’s consolidated revenue. Adeola emphasised the committee’s commitment to meeting the needs of Nigerians while ensuring transparency in budget adjustments.

Watch out for the second and concluding part of this article…

Egbo is a parliamentary affairs analyst.