Atiku: Selling of Public Assets to Fund 2019 Budget Irresponsible

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By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to sell public assets to fund the 2019 budget as irresponsible.

The Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed had recently said that the federal government may not be able to fund the 2019 budget unless some national asset are sold.

President Buhari had on Monday while delivering the 75th anniversary/business lecture of the Island Club, Lagos accused past leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of not building public infrastructure.

However, some of the assets listed for sale in the policy document of the Buhari-led federal government were assets built or established under the PDP administrations that governed Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

Atiku, in a statement Wednesday by his campaign organisation, said: “The attention of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation has been drawn to a policy statement by the Muhammadu Buhari administration evincing a plan to sell National Assets to fund the 2019 budget.

“Our first response would be that this action by the Buhari government has the effect of ridiculing their principal.

“Our question is this: If the PDP did not build infrastructure, as alleged by President Muhammadu Buhari, who built these assets that this administration wants to sell to fund their 2019 budget?”

The former vice-president said that as the head of the Economic Management Committee during the Obasanjo administration, he supervised the successful policy of privatisation.

He explained that privatisation works because it was a long-term strategy to engender efficiency in the economic system and expand the frontiers of private sector activity.

Atiku stressed that its primary goal was not to raise money for short term stabilisation of what is clearly a fragile fiscal system, adding that government’s planned sale of assets would cause long term pains and only provide short term gains.

He stated: “It makes no sense to sell public assets simply to fund a ‘business-as-usual’ budget that is essentially 70% recurrent. It is irresponsible to part with valuable assets simply to consume the proceeds (Like selling your family house to take a trip overseas on holiday).

“We knew that such a day would come, which is why Atiku has on various occasions made it clear that what is needed at this time is fundamentally fiscal restructuring to eliminate our addiction to oil revenues and strengthen our internal revenue generating capacity and a restructuring of the budget in favour of capital spending.

“For instance, last month, the PDP presidential candidate questioned the wisdom behind the federal government sharing $322 million Abacha loot to certain Nigerians, only to obtain a $328 million loan from China, allegedly for ICT development.

“Rather than share that money, the Buhari administration ought to have put that $322 million in an escrow account to be used for funding the 2019 budget.

“Also, we recall that $43 million was found in an Ikoyi apartment. While we note the failed promise of the Buhari administration to come clean on who was behind those monies, we make bold to say that those funds should equally have been placed in escrow for use in funding the 2019 budget.”