By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday passed the 2020 budget for second reading.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presented a spending plan of N10.3 trillion to the National Assembly, making next year’s proposed budget the country’s highest ever.[adrotate banner="11"]
Members of the green chamber had on Wednesday commenced debate on the general principles of the appropriations act.
The proposal shows that about a quarter of the sum (N2.5 trillion) will be used for debt servicing, while capital expenditure is expected to gulp N2.
A further breakdown presented by the president shows the expenditure estimate includes statutory transfers of N556.7 billion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N4.8 trillion and provision for Sinking Fund to retire maturing bonds issued to local contractors is N296 billion.
The budget was prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day and the exchange rate assumed at N305 to $1, as well as real GDP growth of 2.93 per cent while “inflation is expected to remain slightly above single digits in 2020.”
On the first day of deliberations, Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) raised a point of order stating that it was improper for the budget to be attended to without its breakdown.
“The budget is very very ‘unripe’ for hearing.
“The minister yet to provide us with the full details that will enable this budget to be ripe for hearing,” he said.
But the Speaker then ruled Chinda out of order, stating that the house does not need full details to debate on general principles.
“What the president laid yesterday was actually in line with our constitution.”
At the resumption of debate yesterday, the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu), said he commended the fact “that this is one of the time that budget is brought in early.”
“The capital expenditure has been reduced from 2019, the debt servicing of 2.8trillion,” he said. “There is no country that can make progress with this. Health budget is (N)48 billion. How can we make progress? This time, we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
“Nigerians are burdened with so much tax, I believe the budget will not work. I believe the money bill should have been brought before this.
“I was House committee chairman for works, I stated that the commitment of the Ministry is N4 trillion of contract awarded. Any belief that the country will move forward with this budget is a mirage.”
Also speaking on the matter, Nnaji Nnoli, (PDP, Enugu) said he was concerned about the aviation sector.
“Out airports are our gateway, I believe our airport should be given attention, I do not believe that our aviation is getting enough.[adrotate banner="10"]
“I believe that if we can consolidate the 25 per cent of FAAN IGR to the federal government, that will help the airports.
“We can have a 10 years plan for the funds to be used by FAAN. We can develop our airport,” he stated.
House spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu can(APC, Abia) said he is in support of the bill “but that it will not be right without speaking on the timing of the budget”.
“It helps the private sector to plan, as they know the direction the policy is going, I commend them, but we cannot discuss 2020 without discussing 2019.
“One of the man things is the digitisation of tax collection. Over the years, it has been difficult to meet our tax target, the current budget is proposing a new tax burden.
“What this does to an emerging economy is that activities are reduced which causes unemployment and low productivity, which is like a cycle that will continue unless there is a paradigm shift,” he noted.
“The business environment… will it allow things to take place? It is important to copy from Rwanda.[adrotate banner="8"] It is the first country that has started the manufacturing of smartphones from scratch.
“I commend the government for the shift to the non-oil sector,” he added.