Nigerians have expressed mixed reactions over details of the 2021 Appropriation Bill presented yesterday to the National Assembly on Thursday, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President had presented a budget proposal of 13.08 trillion naira budget for the year 2021, which he titled ‘Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience,’ with a budget deficit projected at N5.20 trillion expected to be financed through new borrowings.
The budget was predicated on fiscal assumptions including oil price benchmark of 40 US Dollars per barrel, daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million barrels (inclusive of Condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day), exchange rate of N379 per US Dollar and GDP growth projected at 3.0 percent and inflation closing at 11.95 percent.
TNC correspondent in Awka, Anambra State Capital, reports that while they commended the timely presentation of the Appropriation Bill, citizens were quick to spot lapses in the budget.
Endorsing the predication of oil price at 40 dollar per barrel, the people however faulted the #379 benchmark for dollar exchange as not feasible, in the light of the present #460 naira per dollar rate.
According to an economist, Dr Emeka Arinze, the President had said the Federal Government will borrow to funds the budget, but his worry is how the borrowed funds will be distributed.
“The Federal Government did well to appropriate a greater quotient of the total expenditure to Capital Projects and that is highly commendable. I also commend President Buhari for looking towards economic recovery especially as the country battles the harsh effects of the coronavirus pandemic. On the borrowing planned by the Federal Government, I do not have any issues with it. Rather, my concerns are with how the borrowed funds will be appropriated. I, therefore, suggest that they be deployed towards addressing the country’s infrastructural deficit. In doing this, the Southeast region must be given preference. This is because none of the monies borrowed in the past were used for any project in the region. It is therefore imperative that the Federal Government looks towards building more roads, constructing rail lines and activating the Ports in the region for effective functioning. Only by doing this, will they justify these proposed borrowings,” Arinze said.
The economist also expressed worry that at the rate government pegged inflation, stressing that the Federal Government needs to start working to the country’s inflation rate to a single digit.
A lecturer with Nnamdi Azikiwe University who is also a Public Affairs Analyst, Professor Dennis Aribodor, observed that there is no much difference between the budget and previous ones, as it failed to address the problem of poor allocation to critical sectors such as education, health agriculture among others.
“I think this budget does not make any difference. Those critical areas where Nigerians are expecting that their allocations will be improved upon, remained static. Take for instance, the education sector, where you find that the Universities are seriously under-funded, yet it did not receive more allocation in the budget proposal. Nigeria requires massive investment in the education sector, primary, secondary and tertiary. This is a key sector that will drive innovation and bring about the expected economic growth and help Nigeria compete favourably with other countries.
“In the area of health, Coronavirus has shown a lot of deficiency in our Health system and more funds should be allocated to the sector to drive the transformation in the sector. This is another sector that will impact the lives of the common man but which is still suffering the problem of under-funding,” he noted.
Aribodor urged the National Assembly during its budget defense and review, to prevail on the executive to raise the budget for education to at least meet 15 percent of the budget.
“I sincerely hope the National Assembly will do the needful to raise the allocation to education to a more significant level. The APC government said they will budget 15 percent of the budget for education, they should do that,” said the University Don.
A business man, Emmanuel Offor harped on the need for the National Assembly to speed up the process of budget defense and other processes so that the country can achieve better budgetary performance in 2021.