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2021 budget presentation and matters arising

COSMAS EKPUNOBI takes a look at the strengths and implications of the 2021 budget as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari at the joint session of the National Assembly
President Mohammadu Buhari, last Thursday, presented a budget of N13.08 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year to a joint session of the National Assembly.

The budget is projected on $40 per barrel of crude oil, daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million per barrel and exchange rate of N379 per US dollar.

About N7.8 trillion was put as the targeted revenue for the year with a deficit of about N5.2 trillion ,representing about 3.4 percent of the GDP. The deficit will be financed with a borrowing estimate of about N4.28trillion in 2021.

From the budget proposal, a whopping N5.6 trillion is proposed as recurrent expenditure while the sum of N3.76 trillion is for personnel cost , another N3.12trillion is for debt services .

Buhari named the 2021 estimate ‘Budget for Economic Recovery and Resilience” . These are the few major fiscal and monetary policies expected to stimulate real economic activities in the 2021 fiscal year, even as mixed reaction continue to trial the N14,08 trillion budget .

President Buhari at the joint session told the visibly cheering federal lawmakers that the National Assembly will be funded with a whopping N128 billion in 2021, which is about N20bilion higher than the N108 billion appropriated for the 469 federal lawmakers in 2020budget.

Interestingly, the president and his team arrived the hallowed chamber on Thursday at about 11.03 am , the same time , date, and month he performed a similar annual ritual for the 2019 fiscal all year, suggesting that the soldier turned democrat may have adopted October 8 every year as his traditional date for budget presentation .

President Buhari, who was accompanied to the National Assembly by the Vice {President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and other top government officials told the federal lawmakers that things are getting better.

The president attributed his timely presentation of the 2021 fiscal estimate to what he described as a better working relationship and understand between the executive and the national Assembly during the preparation of the budget.

Recall that the presidency had before now blamed the slow rate of government work and near poor performance of the budget to its perceived frosty relationship with the leadership of the National Assembly .

Presidency once described the former president of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki as “a clog in the wheel of progress.”

The former Senate president and his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, were at some point accused by Buhari cronies in government of sabotaging the APC leg government programme

That was after every plot to replace both presiding officers with presidency preferred candidates for the plum job had failed .

The emergency of Saraki as Senate president on June 9, 2015 was seen by some APC chieftains as a political coup by the opposition PDP

The anti Saraki elements in government who were not comfortable with his regime vowed to frustrate him and the 8th Senate.

Today, Senator Ahmed Lawan is the president of the senate , though he was the preferred candidate for the number three job in the land by the APC and by extension the presidency in 2015, Lawan lost it to Senator Saraki in what senators then described as mysterious circumstance .

Dogara in the same manner outsmarted Femi Gbajabiemila who was the party’s preferred candidate for the job of speaker of the House of Representatives.

Today many Nigerians think that things would be done differently, speedy, and with good result now that the duo of Lawan and Gbajabiamila are the presiding officers of both chambers

Though some Nigerians think that the current political marriage between the presidency and the National Assembly was beginning to yield positive result, good for our democracy, critics however said such unholy marriage may have eroded the very principles of checks and balances ( separation of power) . Sadly some Nigerians still see the 9th Senate and indeed the National Assembly as a rubber stamp arm of government. Lawan until recently was busy telling every ear that cares to listen that he will not run a rubber stamp Senate.

He was reported to have finally admitted this rubber stamp title, last week. But no matter how one look at it, both presiding officers are the good “boys” and indeed regular visitors to the highly restricted Aso rock .

Both leaders in their sepetate speeches told the President last Thursday that the N13.08 budget will be ready for his assent before the end of the 2020 fiscal year .

In fact, the Speaker was quick to inform his members to get ready for debate on the general principles of the 2021 budget Tuesday next week .

Both presiding officers told the visibly happy President Buhari that the budget will be ready for his assent before the end of the 2020 fiscal year. Lawan in his speech expressed satisfaction over the performance of the 2020 budget .

Tongues were however wagging, when he told the joint session that the 2020 budget would have been 100 percent implemented by the end December this year . Lawan’s claim was contrary to the findings of most standing committees of the Senate, which rated the performance of the 2020 below 40 percent .

Buhari in his budget speech directed all heads of MDGs to get ready to open their finance books to the lawmakers for legislative scrutiny.’

This was unlike in the days of Saraki and Dogara, where many heads of government agencies and ministries refused to honour the invitation by the Senate for budget defence and over sight .

The President is his speech however lamented the shortfall in revenue projection for the year, and the would be impact of COVID 19 pendamic in the 2021 .

The budget is projected at N2.01 trillion oil revenue and non-oil revenue is estimated at N1.49 trillion.

Buhari told the lawmakers, “as you will observe, the format of the 2021 Appropriation Bill has been modified to include budgeted revenues, no matter how small, for each MDA, to focus on internal revenue generation.

“Accordingly, I implore you to pay as much attention to the revenue side as you do to the expenditure side.”

He stated that N3.12trillion had been earmarked for debt servicing in 2021 as against N2.1trillion in 2020

The president, who reviewed the performance of the 2020 budget so far, said the budget was amended in response to the challenges occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As at July 2020, the Federal Government’s actual revenue available for the budget was N2.10 trillion.

“This revenue performance was only 68 percent of our pro-rated target in the revised 2020 budget.

“At N992.45 billion, oil revenue performed well above our budget target, by 168 per cent. Non-oil tax revenues totalled N692.83 billion, which was 73 percent of the revised target.’’

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