Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, yesterday told the Senate Committee on Finance that some slight adjustments had been effected on the 2019 Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) between when it was approved by the Federal Executive Council and the finalisation of the 2019 Budget Proposals.
The Special Adviser (Media and Communication) to the minister, Mr. Akpandem James, quoted Udoma as saying this while briefing the committee on the 2019 Revenue and Expenditure Projections.
He said that the adjustment only affected the expenditure levels as it was done to reflect some unanticipated expenditure items and the consequences of those adjustments.
The key assumptions and macro-framework of the 2019 Budget targets 2.3 million barrels per day (mbpd) of oil production at an oil benchmark price of $60 per barrel; exchange rate of N305 per Dollar, Inflation rate at 9.98 per cent, Nominal consumption of N119.28 trillion, Nominal GDP at N139.65 trillion and GDP growth rate of 3.01 per cent
Before giving an overview of the 2019 Expenditure Framework, the minister briefed the committee on the 2018 expenditure outturns, stating that of the total appropriation of N9.12 trillion, N7.24 trillion had been spent as at December 31, 2018; representing 79 per cent performance.
He indicated that debt service and the implementation of non-debt recurrent expenditure, including payment of workers’ salaries and pensions, were on track.
The minister also explained that capital releases only commenced after the signing of the 2018 budget on June 20, 2018; and as at January 11, 2019, a total of N1.226 trillion had been released for capital projects.
Spending on capital, he explained further, was prioritised in favour of critical ongoing infrastructural projects in the power, roads, rail and agriculture sectors. “Implementation of the 2018 capital budget will continue into 2019 until the 2019 Budget is passed into law,” he pointed out.
According to the minister, the federal government will continue its fiscal strategy of directing resources to most productive and growth-enhancing sectors while efforts will be intensified to increase revenue, saying the government will also leverage private capital to supplement capital allocations from the Budget.
Highlights of government’s fiscal strategy, he enumerated to include enhancing economic growth and ensuring inclusiveness; promoting economic diversification; maintaining macroeconomic stability; increasing revenue generation; rebalancing the distribution of Government spending; improving quality of spending; and, ensuring sustainable deficit levels.
To achieve these objectives, the Minister said fiscal, monetary and trade policies will continue to be aligned and implemented in a very coordinated manner.
He said, “The strategy recognizes the need to deliberately cushion the effects of adjustments on the poor and vulnerable members in the society.”
An overview of the 2019 expenditure framework shows that: 2019 FGN spending (exclusive of GOEs/BT Loans) is projected to be N8.83 trillion, less than FY2018 approved budget by 3.22 per cent; recurrent (non-debt) spending is expected to rise by 34.17 per cent, from N3.52 trillion in FY2018 to N4.72 trillion (reflecting increases in salaries & pensions including provisions for implementation of a new minimum wage); at N2.14 trillion, debt service is 24.24 per cent of planned total expenditure, and provision to retire maturing bonds to local contractors decreased by 36.84 per cent from N190 billion in FY2018 to N120 billion.
The review also shows that N2.28 trillion has been allocated for capital spending, inclusive of capital in statutory transfers, and for comprehensiveness and transparency, the expenditure plans of the top nine government-owned Enterprises (GOEs), as well as Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral project-tied loans have been integrated into the 2019 – 2021 Medium Term Fiscal Framework, but have not been included in the budget proposal. And with the inclusion of N275.88 billion representing capital for the top-nine GOEs and N556.02 billion for Multi-lateral/Bi-lateral project-tied loans, the aggregate capital budget is N3.12 trillion. This represents 30 percent of the total FGN proposed expenditure for 2019.
The minister further explained that in order to get full value for monies expended by the government over time and to avoid duplication and waste, emphasis will continue to be on completion of existing projects. Accordingly, provisions have been made to carry over projects that are not likely to be fully funded under the 2018 budget to the 2019 capital budget.
Explaining the basis for the 2019 assumptions, the minister said notwithstanding the softening in international oil prices in late 2018, the considered view of most reputable oil industry analysts is that the downward trend is not necessarily reflective of the outlook for 2019. Currently, the average Brent oil price projection for 2019 by 32 different institutions with relevant expertise is still about $69 per barrel.
However, he assured that government will closely monitor the situation and will respond to any sustained changes in the international oil price outlook for 2019. He disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the NNPC to take all possible measures to achieve the targeted oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day.
He told the committee that the 2019 Budget proposal seeks to continue the reflationary and consolidation policies of the 2017 and 2018 Budgets, respectively, which helped put the economy back on the path of growth; pointing out that the 2019-2021 MTFF, Medium Term Sector Strategies and proposed 2019 Budget reflect many of the reforms and initiatives in the ERGP, which is the roadmap to economic recovery and a more sustainable growth.
To address the revenue challenges that government is currently facing, the Minister said the Government will intensify its efforts to improve public financial management through the comprehensive implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System
Other key initiatives include the immediate commencement of the restructuring of the Joint Venture Oil Assets so as to reduce government shareholding to 40 percent; an exercise the President has insisted must be completed within the 2019 fiscal year.
He said the Department of Petroleum Resource has also been directed to, within three months, complete the collection of past-due oil license and royalty charges, including those due from Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) (a subsidiary of NNPC), which it had agreed to pay since 2017; while the Ministry of Finance, working with all the relevant authorities, has been authorized to take action to liquidate all recovered, unencumbered assets within six months.
The minister said among other revenue generating initiatives, the President has directed that work should immediately be concluded on the deployment of the National Trade Window and other technologies to enhance Customs collections efficiency from the current 64 per cent to up to 90 per cent over the next few years.