By Imam Imam
Sokoto Stateâ€™s 2018 budget, as presented to the state House of Assembly by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, will be the last full budget before the 2019 general elections. Expectations are high that the next fiscal year will see to the realization of many promises made not just in the outgoing year, but since the administration came on board on May 29, 2015.
Different sectors and industry players within and outside Sokoto State have high expectations from the budget. Letâ€™s take a quick look at what can be expected from this new budget-
The 2018 Budget, whose total projections stand at N220,500,264,565.00, has the sum of N67,613,099,000.00 set aside for Recurrent expenditure, while the sum of N152,887,165,565.00 is for Capital Expenditure. This represents a ratio of 70:30 in favour of capital expenditure over recurrent.
Highlights of the Budget shows that the largest share goes to Education with N57,505,170,420.00 which constitutes 26.10% of the Budget sum. This is followed by Health sector which was allocated the sum of N20.932 billion; Agriculture got the third highest allocation with N16.535 billion. Similarly, the sum N14,255 billion was allocated to the ministry of Works and Transport while the sum of N11.560 billion was allocated to ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey.
The Budget, tagged ‘Budget of sustainable positive change’, will focus on completion of the projects started in the preceding year and ensure execution of new ones in line with the governmentâ€™s development policy agenda. According to Tambuwal, this is a budget carefully formulated to address the fundamental future needs of the people. The plan to complete numerous projects already started will lead to the consolidation of the impact of the fiscal reformatory policies introduced in the last two years. And if all goes according to plan, the 2018 budget will be the most viable yardstick to use to assess the administration of Governor Tambuwal.
Among the key fiscal components of the 2018 budget is governmentâ€™s decision to expand areas of cooperation with the private sector in the implementation of projects in areas such as housing, education, agriculture, commerce and industries and roads construction. The fundamental strategy underlying the Public Private Partnership (PPP) as an implementation alternative for development indices is to combine the strength of the private sector and that of the public sector in order to overcome challenges faced by the society to achieve superior outcome. This budget looks set to achieve this purpose. From expertsâ€™ perspectives, ensuring PPP model works will require not just symbolic interventions, but enhanced transparency in taxation, government expenditure and internal revenue drive.
Tax Structure: In 2017, Sokoto state government initiated moves to reform its tax regime. The entire management team of the state board of internal revenue was sacked and in its place, a new and dedicated team of professionals was appointed. Almost a year after the radical move, figures have shown that internal revenue drive has jumped by 50 percent, with a target to achieve 100 percent increase due to be met in January. Among the measures implemented was the change in the stateâ€™s tax structure. With the 2018 budget, we can expect further changes especially in areas of pay-as-you-earn (PAYEE), direct tax and income tax.
Infrastructure: Infrastructure is also expected to be a priority in the upcoming Budget 2018. Tambuwal said that the government wants to increase the momentum at which new infrastructure is being developed state-wide. The new budget will put impetus on developing rural infrastructure. In that regard, government said it intends to construct 30km feeder road from Kuruwa-Kaurare in Tureta Local Government, 10km feeder road from Goronyo-Birjingo-Tuluttu in Goronyo Local Government, 18km feeder road from Toronkawa-Binjin Muza-Kibiyare in Yabo Local Government Area, 15km feeder road from Kebbe-Girkau-Mazoji in Kebbe Local Government and another of similar length in Yar Tsakkuwa in Rabah Local Government. Others important road projects to be implemented include the Sifawa-Badau, D/Daji-Nabaguda-Tulluwa, Rabah-Gandi-Bakura, Tambuwal-Gurzau-Ganuwa, Isa-Modachi-Bafarawa, Dange-Danchadi and Katami-Birnin Tudu roads. Intervention in infrastructure is not limited to roads. As the budget document clearly showed, important projects are to be undertaken under the ministries of water resources, agriculture, commerce and industry, lands and housing and information.
Energy: Another highlight of the budget as presented indicates that the state government is now taking the issue of energy resources more seriously than before. Among the projects it inherited from the previous administration is the 38MW Independent Power Project which has now reached appreciable level of progress. So considering the amount of money expended on it in the past, and coupled with its economic and social relevance to the development of the State, Tambuwal said his administration is working towards its completion by the 3rd quarter of 2018. As the Governor highlighted, in order to provide the right economic and commercial environment to the people, a new ministry to cater for the Energy needs of the state is under consideration. The Ministry will be saddled with the responsibility of formulating and implementing policies aimed at harnessing the stateâ€™s energy potentials. This will include Solar, Wind, Hydro, Bio-mass, Coal, Petroleum and Gas Energy Resources.
Poverty eradication: Sokoto has a made a name for itself as centre for social welfare interventions. This is aimed transforming the lives of the less privileged and also reducing dependency on handouts. According to Tambuwal, the government has pursued this programme consistently through the introduction of vocational skills acquisition programs for women and youths in both the state capital and all the local government councils. In this outgoing year, the Ministry of Social Welfare took over the payment of disabled personsâ€™ monthly allowances across the State.
The underlying theme behind governmentâ€™s poverty eradication strategy is to create job opportunities and sustainable means of livelihood for the vast majority of the populace. This principle has guided governmentâ€™s policy since it came on board over two years ago. Focus has been on tackling poverty in urban and rural areas with special emphasis on women. This approach led to the distribution of 3,500 motorised pasta-making machines for the use of our women across the State. Looking forward to 2018, Tambuwal said the Government intends to procure thousands of units of sewing machines, grinding machines and additional 400 units of tricycles, known as KEKE-NAPEP, for disbursement across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State. Similarly, Government said it intends to reactivate its cottage industries to execute programmes that have direct bearing on youths.
Industrialisation: Sokoto government has vigorously explored strategies that would ensure conducive atmosphere for investment. Such initiatives include the reviving of Sokoto State Investment Company to serve as a catalyst for the industrial and commercial development of the State. In the last two years, a new Organic Fertiliser Production Plant located at Dundaye, a joint venture between Sokoto State Government and Industrial Miners Limited, was completed and put to use. The Company is producing 15,000 metric tons of Fertilizer daily. Another industry developed is the Hijrah Textile Company located at Kalambaina Industrial Layout. Work on the site has now reached 80% stage of completion. Similarly, construction of a Sugar Processing Factory has started in Goronyo. The project is being promoted by a number of sugar entrepreneurs in the state.
Efforts have also been made to promote Micro, Small and Medium Scale Industries in the State. In this wise, the government, in collaboration with the Bank of Industry (BOI) is providing soft loans to Indigenous Entrepreneurs under the SOSG-BOI Fund to boost industrial development in the State. In 2018, plans have been concluded to establish additional Neem (Dogon Yaro) Tree Organic Fertilizer Company in partnership with local and foreign investors; Construction of Ceramic Products Company at Taloka in Goronyo Local Government through Public Private Partnership; establishment of Quarry Plant at Sabon Birni Village in Kebbe Local Government; construction of Laboratory Centre for sample tests and analysis; and construction of two additional Mineral Buying Centres in the other zones as the State had already acquired one built by the Federal Government for the Central Zone.
The take-away from the Sokoto 2018 budget document is that the developmental and infrastructural needs of the economy have not been neglected in pursuit of a consumptive expenditure. What we have seen in the budget document is a broad desire to industrialise the state and hence uplift the livelihoods of its people by ushering decent jobs and opportunities for private capital to flourish. Since 2015, Sokoto has exhibited progressive economic management regimes, the very strides that have been gradually transforming its economy and has continued to deliver dividends.
*Imam is a Sokoto-based journalist. Heâ€™s on Twitter @imamdimam