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IMPROVED BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION: KEY TO NIGERIAíS RECOVERY

BY: Kali Gwegwe
 Published March 28th, 2010

Itís often said that Nigeria produces the best annual budget in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. This assertion cannot be doubted because the nation is blessed with an intimidating array of top class financial experts in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and ministries in charge of Finance, Planning, and Budget. Ordinarily, this huge advantage should have helped to drive Nigeria up the ladder of developing nations in the world. Nigeria could have by now been counted among the first twenty industrialised nations on earth. These two significant feats would have been achieved even if the federal and state governments had strived to achieve a moderate 60% budget implementation benchmark since 1997. Twelve years are enough time for any oil-rich nation like Nigeria to lay a solid foundation for a massive industrialisation agenda. This would have no doubt helped to solve the perennial problems associated with high unemployment figures, which has also given impetus to the ravaging force of poverty. High level youth unemployment and poverty are two major causes of increasing crime rate in the country.

Over the years, poor budget implementation by the executive arm of government at the local, state, and federal levels has sabotaged key public infrastructure such as transport, power, and communication among others. This sad development has unfortunately led to a steady increase in the cost of doing business in Nigeria in the last ten years. Apart from scaring away foreign investors, several multi-national companies have either relocated to neighbouring countries or are contemplating doing so. Nigeria has painfully missed several opportunities of being a preferred country of destination for international investors.

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A very close observation of the state of the nation would lead one to the bitter conclusion that the political class has not been able to appreciate the relationship between effective budget implementation and national development. Budgeting is an integral component of constitutional democracy. Apart from promoting transparency and accountability in public fund management, budgeting is also a fiscal instrument for self assessment. Post budget review activities are used to gauge overall performance. Through this effort, improvements are made in subsequent exercises.

It is also necessary to note that complete budgeting protocol entails effective planning, monitoring, and implementation of recurrent and capital proposals. But regrettably, budgeting culture in Nigeria mostly begins and end with planning alone. Oversight functions carried out by the legislative arm of government in the past as it concerns budget monitoring have been nothing but mere window dressings. This fact has helped to condemn budgets as mere annual rituals. Poor budget implementation in Nigeria is a huge indictment on both the executive and legislative arms of government at the local, state, and federal levels.

 

In all advanced and most developing countries, citizens and the organised private sector await annual budget release with nostalgia. This is so because, budget outlines governmentís current fiscal policies. These policies in turn shape the socio-economic outlook for the year. With this, investment options and directions are made. Budgets are also used by the electorates to measure campaign promises made by politicians. But owing to widespread political apathy and high illiteracy level in Nigeria, politicians are still able to deceive the citizenry about their achievements. For instance, it is common to hear government officials boast of the number of projects they have executed. Interestingly, these officials will never attempt to relate their achievements with the overall budget proposals for the period under review. This can be termed as budget fraud.

It is very sad to note that no state or federal administration in Nigeria have been able to achieve up to a mere 45% annual budget implementation level in the last twelve years. Administration officials are always quick to blame abysmal budget performance on dwindling revenue. The truth is that, our leaders do not still understand the actual meaning of political power in a constitutional democracy. Political power is all about offering quality leadership to better the lots of man and society. On the strength of this, any politician that cannot mobilise available human and material resources for human and societal development, do not have anything doing in government. Such persons should either resign or be sent packing by the masses. Under sound political leadership, Nigeria can survive even without oil and electorates. The nationís deep rooted culture of tribalism and corruption are some of the factors militating against full budget implementation. Enough political will must therefore be mustered to eliminate tribalism and corruption from government business and activities. It is no longer secret that tribalism and corruption are the root causes of Nigeriaís many socio-political problems. As long as they remain unchecked, Nigerian masses will never taste the dividends of democracy.

With a population of about 150m, effective budget monitoring and implementation remains one sure route to Nigeriaís economic and socio-infrastructural rejuvenation. The other important task the federal government should embark on immediately is the diversification of the nationís economic framework by way of strengthening the non-oil sector. This will effectively tackle the problems of dwindling revenue. The time has come for the nationís political leaders to realise that apart from economic stagnation and the resultant collapse of public infrastructure, continuous failure by government to achieve budget targets may lead to serious civil actions, which are capable of threatening the fragile democratic culture in the country.

For now, the over 130m poor Nigerian masses living below poverty line are at the receiving end of poor budget implementation. This is so because, even with failed budgets, the elites- political office holders live far above poverty line. The frustrations suffered by Nigerian masses have turned the country into an oil-spill field. They are just waiting for a match stick. It would definitely be bloody. Rifles and tanks would be turned on the masses. In all of these, the truth would always remain. Nigerian elites do not have the arsenal to kill the underlying spirit of truth, which the Nigerian masses have on their side. This is the time for the political class to climb down from their Olympian height and reason with the masses. Nigeria belongs to both worlds- Affluence and Poverty.

KALI GWEGWE,
2, Greenvilla-Customs Link Road,
Biogbolo-Epie,
Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
kaligwegwe@yahoo.com
0806 407 4810
 



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