James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma has stated that health expenditure will remain a priority for the President Muhammadu Buhari- led administration in 2019, despite revenue constraints.
He gave the assurance at the opening of the “Nigeria Value for Money in the Health Sector Workshop,” adding that the federal government is working to improve the country’s mortality rate, which is among the lowest in the continent.
However, Udoma said the constrained fiscal space occasioned by the drop in oil price and disruption to crude production has continued to reflect on revenues.
According to him:“The present administration came to meet a very constrained fiscal space. Revenue dropped from N10.07 trillion in 2014 fiscal year to as low as N5.68 trillion in 2016. Even though it recovered somewhat to N7.17 trillion and N9.17 trillion in 2019 and 2018, it is still low compared to the amount in 2014.”
He also pointed out that the dwindling donor funding had further compounded matters with the country’s transition from the status of a poor country to a developing economy.
Notwithstanding the government’s tight revenue inflow, the minister stressed that there was the need to increase expenditure in the health sector by collaborating with governments at all levels on the need to maximise value for allocation to the sector.
Also, the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, in his presentation on “Prioritising Health in the National Budget,” disclosed that the federal government had earmarked the sum of N43.5 billion for routine immunisation programme in 2019.
He stressed the need to upscale allocation to primary health care, calling for equity in the allocation of funds to different areas in the sector.
Akabueze said the country must seek alternative funding mechanism as a way forward for investment in the health sector.
According to him, the country is operating a deficit budget which made it further difficult to borrow to fund projects in the health sector, adding that this had placed a lid to the extent to which it could borrow.