Use Annual Budgets to Address Inequality, CSO Tells FG

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By Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

A civil society organisation (CSO)–Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has advised the federal government to apply annual budgets in addressing the problem of inequality, noting that inequality is a pre-condition for economic stagnation.

It also observed that in spite of extant sunshine laws, including the Fiscal Responsibility, Public Procurement and Freedom of Information Acts, the nation’s fiscal environment is still not transparent, culminating in reduced accountability and value for money for federal spending.
CSJ, which has in recent years championed fiscal responsibility practices in governance, stated that the combination of cloudy acts and unequal economic protection lead to reduced opportunities for women and youths in education, employment and other sectors of social and economic life.

The Lead Director, CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, who delivered a lecture on ‘Budgeting for Development’ at the Faculty of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria,  noted that
budgets affect men and women,  youth and different segments of society differently because of their respective roles, contributions, absorptive capacities and societal expectations.
“Coming against the background of the decline in oil price and reduced revenue for government, it is imperative that strategic steps be taken in accordance with Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights law to secure minimum core subsistence rights for vulnerable groups.
“ In these times of severe resource constraints, special measures need to be taken to protect women, youth and vulnerable groups. The federal government needs to be engaged to ensure that this obligation is met. Nigeria is at a fork in the road and needs to take effective decisions on its next fiscal and economic steps.
” The petro dollar boom is over as commodity prices have collapsed. Hard choices need to be made on how to expend the little available resources and new sources of generating revenue.
“These choices are between acceleration and stagnation, stability and fragility and the quest for social solidarity,” he said.
He pointed out that budgets are instruments for the reduction of inequality, adding that inequality is a pre-condition for economic stagnation.
“Economic, fiscal and monetary policies are not neutral. Inequality is not a given; it does not just happen. It is a product of the economic, social and political policy decisions and choices made by the state and citizens.
“Reducing inequality is not only a moral imperative; it is good economics as well. Budgets are essential instruments for the reduction of inequality,” he said.
Onyekpere also stated that for development to occur, the public finance management (PFM) system must be evidence-led and positioned to adjust to changing societal realities.
“It is a fundamental aphorism that the state of development in any society is directly related to the progress in its PFM. However, the society must have an agreement on the direction of the development or transformation. Answers to be provided to critical questions such as: where are we? And where do we want to be?” He queried.
The lecture, which attracted mass participation by students and academic staff of all the departments of the faculty was organised to provide students with knowledge on budgeting.
The arrow-head of the event, Dr. Hamisu Suleiman said the CSJ boss was invited to deliver the lecture because of the antecedents of the CSO over the years.