By Jude Opara, Mathew Dadiya, Tony Obiechina(Abuja), Joy Okeke(Lagos, Dan Amasingha(Minna) and Haruna Aliyu Usman, (Birnin Kebbi)
Nigeria legislators, financial experts and others were sharply divided in swift reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s budget proposal of N13.
While some Senators who spoke to DAILY ASSET, hailed aspects of the proposal, Economists and financial experts gave knocks to the spending plan.
Those who spoke with DAILY ASSET include Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi), Senator Obinna Ogba (PDP, Ebonyi),Finance Expert and Professor of Capital Market, Uche Uwaleke, Chief Operating Officer, InvestData Ltd; Mr Ambrose Omordion, Managing Director/ Chief Executive of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr Bismarck Rewane, Finance expert, Farooq Abdullahi and the Socio-Economic Rights Advancement Project (SERAP).
The budget, tagged: “Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience” would run on N4.48 trillion deficits, with a revenue target in the fiscal year as pegged at N7.9 trillion. This, however, has attracted reactions from economic experts who expressed divergent views on the budget proposal and the possibility of being passed early by the lawmakers as the likelihood of being implemented to the later.
Parameters and Fiscal Assumptions Underpinning the 2021 Appropriation
The 2021 – 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper set out the parameters for the 2021 Budget, which include Benchmark oil price of 40 US Dollars per barrel; Daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million barrels (inclusive of Condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day); Exchange rate of N379 per US Dollar; and GDP growth projected at 3.0 percent and inflation closing at 11.95 percent.
Planned 2021 Expenditure
An aggregate expenditure of N13.08 trillion is proposed for the Federal Government in 2021. This includes N1.35 trillion spending by Government-Owned Enterprises and Grants and Aid funded expenditures of N354.85 billion. For 2021, the proposed N13.08 trillion expenditure comprises: Non-debt Recurrent Costs of N5.65 trillion; Personnel Costs of N3.76 trillion; Pensions, Gratuities and Retirees’ Benefits of N501.19 billion; Overheads of N625.50 billion; Debt Service of N3.124 trillion; Statutory Transfers of N484.49 billion; and Sinking Fund of N220 billion (to retire certain maturing bonds).
President Buhari, while presenting the budget, said that the country remains committed to meeting her debt service obligations. A whopping N3.12 trillion is proposed for debt servicing in 2021, representing an increase of N445.57 billion from N2.68 trillion in 2020. Of the sum, a total of N2.183 trillion would be be set aside to service domestic debts while N940.89 billion has been provided for foreign debt service. N220 billionis provided for transfers to the Sinking Fund to pay off maturing bonds issued to local contractors and creditors.
Total overhead costs of MDAs and Government Owned Enterprises are projected to rise to N625.50 billion in 2021, mainly due to the inclusion of the overheads of an additional 50 Government Owned Enterprises. Overhead provisions have also been made for newly created agencies.
To keep a tab on running costs, MDAs must adhere to extant expenditure controls.
An aggregate sum of N3.85 trillion is expected to be available for capital projects in 2021, as summarised below:N1.80 trillion for MDAs’ capital expenditure; N745 billion for Capital Supplementation; N355 billion for Grants and Aid-funded projects; N20 billion for the Family Homes Fund; N25 billion for the Nigeria Youth Investment fund; N336 billion for 60 Government Owned Enterprises; N247 billion for capital component of Statutory Transfers; andN710 billion for projects funded by Multi-lateral and Bi-lateral loans. The 2021 capital budget is N1.15 trillion higher than the 2020 provision of N2.69 trillion. At 29 percent of aggregate expenditure, the provision moves closer to this Administration’s policy target of 30 percent.
The President assured that capital expenditure in 2021 remains focused on the completion of as many ongoing projects as possible, rather than the commencement of new ones.
“We have also made efforts to ensure equity in the distribution of projects and programmes in the proposed budget. I will be providing the National Assembly a list of some of the most critical projects which we must work collectively to ensure they receive adequate funding. Until projects reach completion, they do not deliver the dividends of democracy that Nigerians rightly deserve, ” President Buhari said.
Highlights of the 2021 Capital Projects
Major highlights of the 2021 appropriation includes key capital spending allocations in the 2021 Budget include: Power: N198 billion (inclusive of N150 billion for the Power Sector Recovery Plan); Works and Housing: N404 billion; Transportation: N256 billion; Defence: N121 billion; Agriculture and Rural Development: N110 billion; Water Resources: N153 billion; Industry, Trade and Investment: N51 billion; Education: N127 billion; Universal Basic Education Commission: N70 billion; Health: N132 billion; Zonal Intervention Projects: N100 billion; and Niger Delta Development Commission: N64 billion.
A major part of the 2021 recurrent cost estimate is allocated to paying salaries and overheads in MDs: N227.02 billion for the Ministry of Interior; N441.39 billion for the Ministry of Police Affairs; N545.10 billion for Ministry of Education; N840.56 billion for Ministry of Defence; and N380.21 billion for Ministry of Health.
The President who lamented that personal cost still federal government’s largest single item of expenditure; disclosed that in the seven months to 31st July 2020, it accounted for 34 percent of total Federal Government spending and is projected at 33 percent of 2021 expenditure.To check the incidence of payments to non-existent personnel and unauthorised allowances, the President declared that only Federal staff that have been captured on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (‘IPPIS’) platform will receive salaries.
Based on the foregoing fiscal assumptions and parameters, total federally distributable revenue is estimated at N8.433 trillion in 2021. Total revenue available to fund the 2021 Federal Budget is estimated at N7.886 trillion; including Grants and Aid of N354.85 billion as well as the revenues of 60 Government-Owned Enterprises. Oil revenue is projected at N2.01 trillion.
Non-oil revenue is estimated at N1.49 trillion. As you will observe, the format of the 2021 Appropriation Bill has been modified to include budgeted revenues, no matter how small, for each MDA, to focus on internal revenue generation.
Accordingly, I implore you to pay as much attention to the revenue side as you do to the expenditure side.
Highlights of Sectoral Allocation
President Buhari at the budget presentation said N4.28trn would be borrowed to make up the N13.08 trillion presented to the joint session of the National Assembly for approval for the incoming 2021 fiscal year.
The proposed expenditure is predicated at a crude oil benchmark price of $40 per barrel and a daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million barrels (inclusive of condensates of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels per day). Also, the budget is based on the exchange rate of N379 to $1, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at three percent and inflation rate at 11.95 per cent.
The President equally said the 2021 budget would also energize the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to generate revenue, no matter how small, just as he urged the legislature to equally pay attention to revenue generation as much as they did to the expenditure.
According to him, the 2021 budget was the roadmap for a post-Covid-19 economy aimed at accelerating the economic recovery process.In the budget, the National Assembly got N128 billion, while N380.21b had been allocated to the health ministry.
“There is also a N1.35 trillion spending by Government Owned Enterprises as well as Grants and Aids funded expenditure of N354.85 billion”, he said.
The highlights of the budget include; a recurrent expenditure of N5.65 trillion, personnel cost of N3.76 trillion and debt service pegged at N3.12 trillion. Similarly, statutory transfers had been put at N484.4 billion while Pension, Gratuities & Retirees Benefits was put at N501.19 billion and overhead cost at N625.50 billion.
“There is a provision of N63.5 billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)”, he added.
Based on the projected fiscal permutations and parameters, the total distributable revenue is estimated at N8.433 trillion in 2021, while the total revenue available to fund the 2021 federal budget is estimated at N7.886 trillion.
However, Buhari equally noted that the deficit would be financed mainly by new borrowings totalling N4.28 trillion, N205.15 billion from proceeds of privatisation and N709.69 billion in drawdowns on multilateral and bilateral loans secured for specific projects and programmes. Also, from Oil revenue, about N2.01 trillion is projected, while non-oil revenue is estimated at N1.49 trillion.
Other allocations include N29.7 billion for the North East Development Commission (NEDC), N110 billion for the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC), N70.05 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has N40 billion for the fiscal year under review.
The President Buhari further directed that in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, all beneficiaries of Statutory Transfers will be required to furnish the Budget Office with periodic reports on the allocation and expenditure of funds.
He said this is to enable prompt inclusion in the quarterly Budget Implementation Report.
The Ministry of Defence came top with a proposed allocation of N840billion, while Police and Education got N441.39billion and N554.10 billion respectively.
Buhari said the allocation to education represented a 60 per cent increase from the 2020 budget and warned lawmakers against including projects in the budget that would be difficult to implement.
“Let me re-emphasize that Nigerians expect that the 2021 budget, will contain only implementable and critical projects, which when completed, will significantly address current structural challenges of the economy”, he stated.
The President, however, commended the National Assembly for its “tremendous efforts in approving the revision of the 2020 – 2022 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, and passage of the 2020 Appropriation (Repeal and Amendment) Act, in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic”.
“Today marks an important occasion in our quest to accord the federal budget process the seriousness it deserves. In line with our commitment, we have worked extra hard to ensure early submission of the 2021 –2023 Medium-term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, as well as the 2021 Appropriation Bill.
“It is my sincere hope that the National Assembly will pass this Bill into law early enough to enable implementation by 1st January 2021, given the collaborative manner in which the budget was prepared”.
“The 2021 Budget was prepared amidst a challenging global and domestic environment due to the persistent headwinds from the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The resulting global economic recession, low oil prices and heightened global economic uncertainty have had important implications for our economy.
“The Nigerian economy is currently facing serious challenges, with the macroeconomic environment being significantly disrupted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. “Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP’) growth declined by 6.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. This ended the third-year trend of positive, but modest, real GDP growth recorded since the second quarter of 2017.
“I am glad to note that through our collective efforts, our economy performed relatively better than that of many other developed and emerging economies.“GDP growth is projected to be negative in the third quarter of this year. As such, our economy may lapse into the second recession in four years, with significant adverse consequences.
“However, we are working assiduously to ensure a rapid recovery in 2021. We remain committed to implementing programmes to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years.
“As skills’ deficits limit employment opportunities in the formal economy, various skills’ development programmes are being implemented simultaneously to address this problem frontally.
“For instance, the Government is implementing the Special Public Works programme to provide employment opportunities to 774,000 youths across the 774 local government areas of Nigeria. We have also recently introduced the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund of which N25 billion have been provided in 2021 Budget”, he added.
Adeyemi, Ogba Hail Budget
In a related development, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi) commended President Buhari’s resolve to continue the execution of ongoing projects in the 2021 budget.Adeyemi made the commendation while reacting to the 2021 budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.
“A typical Nigerian politician will not be thinking of completing ongoing projects; he will be thinking of new projects.
“If these projects are completed and we have good network of roads in the North, South, West and East of the country, there will be boom in economic activities.
“And because the economists are telling us that next year may not be too friendly economically; this is a global problem.
“We may not feel the pain as much because the policies that are required to cushion global economic recession are already put in black and white for people to know that the government is conscious of it.Similarly, Sen. Obinna Ogba (PDP Ebonyi) also said he was delighted that Buhari directed that all ministers and heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) must appear to defend their budgets before the National Assembly.
“Not that the country does not have revenue but these revenues go down the drain as the MDAs account for are not what are actually generated.“Effort should be made to transfer all money generated directly to the Federation Account and when this is done, you will discover that the issue of revenue will not be a problem in the country.”
He expressed surprise that the N100 billion earmark as zonal intervention fund had remained the same over the years.“I am surprise that the money earmarked for zonal intervention projects for the 2021 budget estimates is not increased.
“It has always been like that for some time now; it needs to be increased. Experts Laud Early Presentation, Fault Parametres, Framework Speaking with DAILY ASSET in separate reactions the financial experts argued that some of the assumptions did not take into consideration of the present reality.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, faulted the benchmark oil price, saying based on current crude oil price, a $40 barrel per day projection was too optimistic. Brent Crude price closed at $41 per barrel yesterday.
Rewane said: ”Normally, you would allow at least 20 per cent headroom between the spot price and your benchmark price. If you are to take 20 per cent headroom, which means the oil benchmark should be about $32 per barrel.
“Then, you give room for negotiation with the National Assembly. Let’s say all things being equal the lawmakers could add $3 and you end up at about $35 per barrel.
“That gives you enough headroom. Now you are proposing $40 per barrel and crude oil price even dropped to $39 per barrel last week. So, I think it is too ambitious because in the oil market you never know what would happen.”
Furthermore, he argued that the federal government’s estimated crude oil production volume was also overtly ambitious, explaining that presently, Nigeria’s production quota is 1.4 million barrels per day.
“So, I would have preferred to see 1.6 million barrels per day as production volume and $32 per barrel as the benchmark price,” he said.In terms of the N379/$I, which the budget was predicated upon, Rewane said: “I think we should have an exchange rate-determining mechanism. If you are going to unify the exchange rates, it is definitely not going to be around N379 to a dollar. I don’t want to give an exchange rate, but I think we need a flexible exchange rate. But generally speaking, it is a countercyclical budget, which is good.
There is growth in the expenditure, both in naira and dollar terms.” A Senior Economist/Head of Research and Strategy, Greenwich Merchant Bank, Mr. Ayodeji Ebo, said that the exchange rate benchmark did not align with current realities in the foreign exchange market describing it as a complete deviation from the federal government’s step to unify the exchange rates.
“The oil production seems overly optimistic, given the OPEC cut in oil output,” he added. The Managing Director, Afrinvest Research, Mr. Abiodun Keripe, argued that the exchange rate peg is insufficient as the prospects for recovery in the value of the naira remains weak.
”I assume that the government is being mindful of signalling a weak outlook for the naira, ” Keripe said.
Professor of Economics and Capital Market, Joseph Uche Uwaleke, who expressed mix reaction on the budget, however, commended the Executive arm of government for submitting the budget proposal in good time that allows the National Assembly sufficient period to consider and pass the appropriation Bill.
Uwaleke said that the assumptions and budget parameters are realistic except for the Exchange rate of N379 to the dollar that may not hold due to the on-going process of unifying Exchange rates across all forex windows by the CBN consistent with the IMF prescription.
The Nigeria’s first professor of capital market said the real GDP growth rate projected at 3% is a little ambitious in view of the impact of COVID’19 on the economy expected to linger till next year, adding “this is why the recent Fitch report on Nigeria projects a GDP growth rate of 1.3% for the country in 2021”.
Uwaleke said, “I wish to note that the budget proposal seems to have set the right priorities with the bulk of capital spending going to Works and Housing, Power and Transport.
For the first time in many years, the capital allocation to Education and Health are above that of defense. “I must add however, that new borrowings of over N4 trillion to part finance a deficit of over N5 trillion is worrisome given the already huge amount of over N3 trillion allocated to debt servicing alone. “COVID’19 notwithstanding, the deficit to GDP should have been kept within the 3% threshold stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
“I hope the National Assembly will consider any amendment within the budget envelope of N13.08 trillion and not end up jerking up the figure.”
Financial experts also commended President Buhari for early presentation of 2021 budget proposal and called for prompt passage.
They spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, while reacting to Buhari’s presentation of the 2021 budget estimates to the National AssemblyChief Operating Officer, InvestData Ltd; Mr Ambrose Omordion, said that early presentation of 2021 budget to the National Assembly was a welcome development.
Omordion said that the early presentation would give the lawmakers enough time to do their jobs and to keep to January to December budget period.He, however, expressed concern on huge cost of debt servicing which stood at N3.12 trillion.
“The N13.08 trillion estimate is huge to make impact but the high cost of servicing debt which is about N3.12 trillion is huge.“All the budget assumptions look realistic if the fiscal and monetary authorities will match their words with actions by complementing each other with good policy framework to drive the economy,” Omordion said.
An Accountant and a Public Affairs Analyst, Mallam Farooq Abdullahi, while reacting to the 2021 fiscal estimates in Minna, yesterday, said: “Let me start by saying that am still studying the different components of the proposal, but from my preliminary observations it will have minimal impacts on Nigerians”.
Abdullahi explained that, from a cursory look at the proposal before the National Assembly, it was obvious that Nigeria “is groaning under a debt burden which if not properly managed, can mortgage the future of the country”.
He said from the figures already before the public domain, the sum of N3.12 trn would be spent on debt servicing, which is higher than the N2.18trn for the outgoing year.
“From this scenario, it is obvious that our debt profile is increasing on yearly basis and this will no doubt impact negatively on the overall welfare of the citizens”, he added.
SERAP Seeks Reduction of NASS N238bn Vote
Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representative, Femi Gbajabiamila to urgently push to cut the N128bn budget for the National Assembly in 2021.”The national assembly ought to prioritise spending for education and healthcare.”
“We’ll see in court if our lawmakers approve this money for themselves.”Nigeria’s 2021 budget: Education [UBEC] gets N70.05bn. Healthcare gets N35.03bn, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.”But national assembly gets N128bn. This is more than the proposed spending on education and health combined.
“We’ll fight to end this blatant violation of the constitution. It’s Budget of Hope-CitizensSome section of the public in Bauchi state have described the N13.08tn budget presented by President Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly, as a budget of hope and rising expectations.A renowned scholar and economist, Dr Abdulmaji Jamal encapsulated this optimism in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bauchi on Thursday and described the estimate as realistic.
“But we must expect a significant reduction in the prices of consumables, especially, foodstuff,” he said.
In the same vein, Malam Dauda Mohammed, a civil servant expressed optimism that the price of oil in the international market would appreciate and the budget target could be achieved as envisaged or even better.
He added that the budget which was projected at the N 4.4 trillion deficit would definitely see the light of the day through exploiting the various existing revenue sources and blocking of leakages.
Also, Mr Alhassan Ibrahim, a businessman lauded the president for such an ambitious budgetary allocation.He said that the N420 billion and the N20 billion earmarked for the social investment and housing programmes would likely generate employment and provide sufficiency in shelter.
Ibrahim, however, called on the government to ensure full implementation of the budget while calling on the national assembly to ensure speedy and timely passage of the budget into law for development.
Nigerians reactions from Kebbi State are mainly of disapproval, one Almustapha Haruna described the budget as empty, he contended that, the president is not serious in the fight against insurgency and banditry which is on the increase.
According to him, even though huge billions have been spent without positive impact, but it doesn’t warrant reducing it.
Also, Asiya Dan Bala, who spoke to DAILY ASSET said that the budget had fallen short of human development expectations. “He didn’t mention welfare of citizens whose bellies are too empty to see any infrastructure as often talked about,” he said adding “frustration, joblessness has increased rate of suicides in the country”.
” A lot of Nigerians have lost confidence and hope in the Buhari- led government,” she stated adding that Nigerians now don’t pay attention to budget because the five budgets by the Buhari administration made little or not impact on the citizenry.
According respondnet who preferred to be anonymous said Buhari’s budget was a mere presentation of documents with nothing to write home about, he urged him to direct the government energies to unifying the country and strive hard to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.