Budget 2018: Four items Nigerians will be looking out for

by Alexander O. Onukwue

What will be the major talking points in President Buhari’s 2018 budget which he would present to the National Assembly next Tuesday?

As with the past two budgets, we can expect the public scrutiny to be intense and if it goes according to previous patterns, the public will also have much to grumble about. That will be unless the Government decides to undertake the following revisions in the upcoming budget.

Education

The percentage of the 2017 budget allocated for Education was 6%, the lowest in the last five years. That also represented a decline in the percentage allocation for the third time in four budget cycles, even as the total budget figure has continued to leap in trillions.

The 2017 allocation for education was N448 billion and representing 6% of the budget means it was more than 4 times lower than the 26% standard recommended by UNESCO. Various groups and members of the academic community have emphasized the importance of education in the overall development of the other parts of the society, including industry and agriculture, calling on the Government to do significantly better in its plans for the education sector.

In the West African sub region, Nigeria’s 6.4% for education in 2017 was far worse than the allocations made by other States including Liberia (12.1%), Cape Verde (13.8%) and Benin Republic (15.5%). Ghana, which has become one of the top three destinations of Nigerians going to foreign Universities, allocated 23.1% of its 2017 budget to education, according to data curated by Eduplana, a civic tech group working with BudgIT Nigeria.

Infrastructure, mainly Roads

It remains tragic that in 2018, Nigeria which is esteemed as one of the leading developing economies remains very inaccessible. Two of the most basic indices of development – good roads and power – remain elusive even in the country’s urban centres. Many of the country’s federal roads are still not better than the disguised death traps they have been since before Facebook and despite over $10 billion dollars plunged into the power sector, the country has not advanced from the primary goal of 24 hours a day uninterrupted.

As a recent SBM Intelligence report says, the poor state of Nigeria’s infrastructure pose one of the most obvious problems to doing business in Nigeria. “Poor roads lead to the loss of billions of naira in economic value as well as thousands of avoidable deaths due to accidents” per SBM intel. Those who make the most use of Nigeria’s 108,000km of roads – the commercial drivers – believe the roads have got worse over the past five years.
Will the 2018 budget roll out a national road plan that should settle what should be a basic amenity once and for all?

National Assembly Allocations

2017 was the year in which Nigerians got, for the first time, some idea of what the National Assembly’s budget is but civil society advocacy groups want to know more. Never mind that this comes third on this list, the National Assembly’s allocations will be the first item from where most persons will begin their critique of President Buhari’s proposal come Tuesday. Much has been said about cutting down on the cost of Governance by reducing the money spent on the National Assembly. However, you can bet that the attention will be on the percentage of increase than on a decrease.

Aso Villa Sewage, Clinic, Kitchen and other matters

There are a whole host of things that make for funny reading in the Nigerian budget, most of which come under the list of things acquired for the Villa. Some of such utilities appear to be replaced on an annual basis even when the majority of Nigerians factor that they have used the equivalents of those things for a good number of years in their households.

With the alarm raised over the poor condition of the Aso Rock clinic by the First Lady, particular attention will be paid on what its allocation will be. The clinic received N3billion in the 2015 budget but cannot service X-Ray requests, according to Mrs Buhari’s revelations.

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