Poor implementation of budget a recipe for underdevelopment

(By Linus Aleke)

Nigeria as a nation needs to diversify its economy from total reliance on oil, and agriculture is one of the major areas to ensure a sustainable diversification of our economy. In 2013, agriculture had a budget of N39.9 billion out of which only N19.9 billion was released, leaving a shortfall of N20.1 billion as at December 31, 2013. This does not show seriousness in our drive to achieve a meaningful diversification from reliance on oil revenue in Nigeria.

 AS the Master of all masters, Jesus Christ rightly observed in the cause of His sermon as recorded in the Gospel of Luke (14:28-31): ‘For which of you, desiring to build a tower will not first sit down and estimate the cost, whether he has the enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he had laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying this man began to build and was not able to finish.’

The illustration above aptly captures what families, corporate bodies and governments at all levels have obediently adopted over the ages and do not seem to be in the mood to discontinue the practice till the present day in the name of budget and budgeting processes.

  A housewife draws up a budget for the running of the household within a specific period and submits same to the husband for funding to avoid running into trouble and debt.

  Same is applicable to corporate bodies, big or small, as well as the governments at the centre, states and local levels. This is in consonance with the oriental clichés which state that he who fails to plan plans to fail. Therefore, budget and budgeting processes are in line with modern planning system.

   It is necessary to note that apt as the foregoing illustration may be, poor implementation of a plan or budget will amount to chaos and retrogression in the system—public or private.

  Take, for instance, a situation in which a housewife budgets 1,000 dollars for her monthly upkeep and she spends less than half of the total sum. The effect of the under spending on the household is not hard imagine.

  It is, nonetheless, in line with the aforesaid realities that a group of professionals under the aegis of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) appealed to the Executive and Legislative arms of the government to find a lasting solution to the perennial disagreement which has always delayed the early passage of the appropriation Act, the assent of Mr. President and the subsequent implementation of the nation’s budget—on record time.

  The national president of the group, Mr. Bawa Ka’oje, an engineer, who made the appeal at a press briefing, had said that for the projects and other services to go as planned in the 2014 appropriation, the National Assembly must hasten the passage of the budget before it. The budget, however, has now been passed by the Legislature.

   When Mr. Ka’oje spoke before the budget was passed, he said: “The first quarter of the year is almost ending and the passage of the 2014 appropriation bill in the national assembly is still pending. The legislative and executive arms of government must find ways and means to agree on budget parameters to enable the Executive to present budget proposal on time so as to allow the parliamentarians deliberate on it and analyze the proposal for early passage and assent by the President; this will enable a timely commencement of budget implementation through the year, thereby allowing a better and more meaningful implementation to be achieved, for a more enhanced national development.

  Therefore, APBN is urging the national assembly to hasten and pass the budget to get projects and other services to go on as planned in 2014.”

  The former minister also used the opportunity to berate the poor implementation of the previous budget, that is, last year’s budget with particular reference to agriculture sector, noting what may be implied from his speech as the Federal Government’s indifference towards diversification of the nation’s economy. According to him, it is what is responsible for the shortfall in the releases of budgetary allocation to the sector.

  He said that no nation can industrialise with revenue from one source as is the case with Nigeria, stressing that the government must step up efforts in diversifying the nation’s economy particularly the agric sector if the nation is to witness the desired change and rapid development.

  “Nigeria as a nation needs to diversify its economy from total reliance on oil, and agriculture is one of the major areas to ensure a sustainable diversification of our economy.   In 2013, agriculture had a budget of N39.9 billion out of which only N19.9 billion was released, leaving a shortfall of N20.1 billion as at December 31, 2013. This does not show seriousness in our drive to achieve a meaningful diversification from reliance on oil revenue in Nigeria.”

   He then went on to advise the government to ensure prompt release of budgetary allocations to ministries, departments and agencies of government to stimulate a successful implementation of the budget while describing as unacceptable the non-release of budgeted allocations as painted in the foregoing.

  Ka’oje also expressed displeasure at the snail pace of implementation of the budget. He said that despite the poor implementation of the 2013 budget in almost all the sectors, particularly as it affected the Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal Government borrowed more than N10 trillion to fund projects and services in last year thereby raising the nation’s debt profile from N7.55 trillion in 2012 to a whooping sum of N10.04 trillion at the end of 2013, and it is still rising.

  “Nigeria’s debt profile hits N10 trillion as at December 31, 2013, indicating an increase of 33.03 per cent compared with N7.55 trillion by December 31, 2012. This is as a result of massive borrowing from both domestic market and institutional agencies, according to debt management office. The Federal Government borrowed N2.49 trillion to finance operations in 2013. There is, therefore, the need to be careful with the level of borrowing so as not to over burden the nation with debt.”

   He went on: “It is with utmost commitment and sense of humility that the association affirms that we have a very important role to play in the development of the country. With the involvement of Nigerian professionals as stakeholders, Nigeria can truly attain its potentials as a great nation.”

  It will be recalled that before the advent of crude oil revenue, the nation survived solely on revenue accruing from agricultural produce. For example, the North was noted for its production of cash crops such as groundnut, as well as herd and skins, the East led in the area of palm oil production while the West was the leader in the production of cocoa and rubber. But the discovery of oil and the balkanization of the regions into states weakened the regions and drove the component units into indolence and slumber.

  Supporting the above view, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in his Centenary address, remarked that the government had not been able to reap the full benefits of the oil exploration in the country.

  “The history of Nigeria since Independence is the story of a struggle to fulfill our great promise. The discovery of oil in our country in the late 1950s offered new hope of prosperity but we have not always been able to reap the benefits in a fair and equitable way.”

   In the light of the foregoing, however, it is appropriate to emphasize that no nation can attain meaningful development in an environment characterized by unending disagreements between major arms of government charged with the responsibilities of appropriation and implementation of budget for the nation. Hence the urgent need for the duo to sheathe their swords in the overall interest of the nation.

  It is on this premise that one is safe to infer that ‘to whom much is given, as they say, much is also expected.’ Therefore, those orchestrating this endless disagreement between the two arms of the government in the area of budgeting should be conscious of history which often judges everyone according to the measure of his contribution to the development of his society or the nation at large.

• Alake is an Abuja based journalist.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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