Senators, Reps open debate on budget

Power Sector probe: ‘Extend investigation to Obasanjo, Jonathan, Buhari’

Sanni Onogu, Tony Akowe and Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja


SENATORS and House of Representatives members on Tuesday begun the debate on Budget 2020 presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

Senators were divided over the sustainability of the N10.33 trillion proposal in the fiscal document tagged: Budget of Sustaining Growth and Job Creation

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila foiled the attempt by opposition legislators to halt the debate as the House begun the second reading of the Appropriation Bill.

Explaining President Buharis expectations about the budget, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, said it would boost job creation.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale called for the speedy passage of the budget by the National Assembly.

Senator Leader Yahaya Abdullahi had moved a motion that the Bill for an Act to authorize the issue from the consolidated revenue fund of the Federation the total sum of N10,330,416,607,347.00 …. be considered for second reading.

He described the budget GDP ratio as very small and incapable of stimulating investment.

He said: You could see the kind of programme that we have and the major problem that we have is that the economy is very short of revenue. We have an economy with a GDP of about N140trillion out of which we can only get about 10 per cent or less.

Now, when you look at the budget to the GDP ratio, it is very low. The total Federal Governments revenue is N8.155trillion. If you add the deficit, the budget comes to about 10.7trillion.

The capital budget to GDP ration is too small. It is just two per cent of the GDP. This is a very low figure indeed and when we look at it as an issue of investment, it is a mere drop in the ocean, therefore, incapable of stimulating the economy to a higher growth trajectory. That has been the problem of the national economy for more than 30 years.

Abdullahi added: Therefore, you can see from this that we are only marginally above the growth rate of the population. This is a very low performance for an economy of this size, Abdullahi said.

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He further noted that the projection on oil production averaging 2.18mbpd in the medium term are subject to very high risks which may have devastating consequences.

Volatility in the oil market and in the Niger Delta are factors that make these projections only tentative.

He added: We have to think out of the box from this chamber to make the relevant laws in order for this economy to generate revenue.

The Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the Federal Government wanted job creation without investing in ventures that would create jobs.

Abaribe added: The projected growth as read by the President is 1.9% less than the population growth of 2.6% so if you look at it globally we are still struggling that is why I was very happy when the Senate leader said we may have to take over and redirect the economic policy of this government having seen that they have not done anything and that they have failed.

Senator Gabriel Suswam described the proposal as a very ambitious budget to address the infrastructural deficit.

He said: The President submitted financial bill with five thematic concern. Tax that has been moved from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent is the source that will generate the revenue to carry infrastructure.

He noted that the 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) rate proposed in the Financial Bill that accompanied the budget from the executive is on the high side.

If we are trying to raise 7.5 from VAT, it is a double edge sword and it will undermine small scale enterprises.

Senator Barau Jibrin noted that the Federal Government has done well in its revenue drive and diversification of the economy.

Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu commended the sectoral allocation to the Ministry of Works and Housing and the National Human Rights Commission.

He said: The President has done his job, we cant blame him but it becomes our responsibility to ensure judicious application of our revenue.

While we look at expenditure we must also look at revenue drive. There is need to block all the leakages. I am happy that we are dealing with the Production Sharing Contract Bill but we shouldnt stop there.

We shouldnt stop at only oil and gas, but we encourage the private sector. We must remove emphasis on oil and gas. We need to look at the mineral sector.

Other Senators that contributed to the debate include Senators Yahaya Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Adamu Aliero, Buhari Abdulfatai, Francis Alimikhena, Olubunmi Adetumbi, Kabiru Gaya and Opeyemi Bamidele.

Akabueze, who spoke on the sidelines of the 2020 budget estimate presentation, said: The budget presented by Mr President is titled the Budget of Growth and Job Creation; so, at least that clearly defines what the objectives are.

The budget is intended to drive growth; it is intended to expand the economys capacity to create jobs.

As you are aware, the president has committed to a goal of uplifting a hundred million people out of poverty over the next 10 years. And the best way to take people out of poverty is to put them into jobs to be able to earn income.

The DG said that creating palliatives, such as Social Investment Programmes, can only serve as interim measure, pending when people get jobs.

Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, commended the President for the timely presentation of the budget.

He said this would enable the country to achieve the January to December budget cycle.

The reason the budget is coming (now) is to enable us go back to the budget cycle of January to December which will help us plan and have a better plan for the future of Nigeria.

Sen. Ali Ndume, however, decried the performance level of 2019 budget, saying it was circumstantially poor.

Sen. Adamu Bulkachuwa said a lot of work had been done underground on the budget and the document presented was a result of what had been agreed upon.

NECA Director-General Olawale said: It is hoped that the legislators will do the needful by expediting action on treating the budget with the good of the citizenry as the sole driver.





Author: Akintunde1




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