Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
By Nnamdi Duru
The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) has faulted the 2012 federal budget, saying it falls short of expectations and not capable of addressing the challenges facing the country.
Members of the body, mainly professionals, noted that the revenue projections were reasonable, but warned that this could only be realised if there is no crisis in the Niger Delta region.
They complained that the rate of reduction in the recurrent expenditure from 74 per cent to 72 per cent was not encouraging at all.
The President of the body, Mr. Segun Ajanlekoko made the position of the professionals known during the board meeting that was hosted by the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) in Lagos recently.
He could not hide his dissatisfaction with the N1 trillion that government allocated to security, saying the Boko Haram menace does not justify the deliberate attempt to encourage corruption in the name of fighting insecurity in the country.
“On the highest singular allocation of N921.91 billion to security, APBN thinks the amount is too much. Although the country is confronted with the issue of Boko Haram, APBN believes strongly that this allocation is too high and deliberately bloated to give room for corruption since essentially and in practice no one investigates spending under security votes,”
The APBN president also criticised the allocations to education, health, power, housing, agriculture and water resources among others, saying they were at variance with government’s objectives of job creations and diversification of the economic base of the country.
“Allocations to education (N400.16 billion), health (N282.77 billion), agriculture and rural development (N78.98 billion), water resources (N39 billion), power (N161.42 billion), lands and housing (N26.49 billion), science and technology (N30.84 billion) are just too low to support the campaign of government to ensure industrial growth, employment of our youths and the enormous noise over the development of the agricultural sector in order to achieve a diversified economic base for the country,” he said.
Ajanlekoko said the situation puts a question mark on seriousness of government to diversify the economy, ensure agricultural revolution and guarantee Nigerians stable and regular power supply in the next five years.
He also wondered whether government was serious about provisions of quality education and health services as well as good roads and other infrastructures across the country within a reasonable time as it has continued to promise.
The APBN president also stated dissatisfaction with the rate of reduction in the ratio of the recurrent expenditure to the budget figure, saying the amount allocated to it was still too high for the budget to generate the desired level of economic growth and development.
“Although government struggled to reduce the recurrent expenditure from 74 per cent of the budget in 2011 to 72 per cent of budget in 2012 at N2.40 trillion, it is still significantly high thus undermining the growth in capital formation which is proposed for a modest 28 per cent of N1.32 trillion,” Ajanlekoko said.
He however noted that the 2012 budget assumptions were “very reasonable and attainable”; adding that with little or no unrest and the Nigeria Delta region, the anticipated production of 2.48 million barrels per day could be surpassed.
He commended government for using N155 against the Dollar as the benchmark for exchange rage, N5 lower than the market rate, reasoning that this gives enough rooms for reasonable fluctuations and savings.
He noted that oil prices in the world market hovered around $100 per barrel, saying this would ensure the generation of huge savings and encouraged government to be more transparent in its budgeting process going forward.
“Government should be more transparent in the budgeting process with clear focus on its objectives. In doing this, government should reduce wastages and spending more meaningfully in areas of great interest and usefulness to the general public,” the APBN president stressed.