Budget 2018? What did we learn from budget 2017?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

After delays due to disagreements between the Executive and the National Assembly, the 2017 budget was passed and signed into law in June. Barely six months later, the 2018 budget will be presented and all attention will shift to it.

It is inevitable that the budget which President Buhari will be presenting to the National Assembly on Tuesday, November 7, will occupy news media for the rest of the year. Everyone who has got an eye for numbers and a political interest will be scrutinizing the line items to find points of disagreement. So much will the attention be on the 2018 budget proposal that presently burning issues like the Maina affair and the altercation between the heads of the Petroleum sector will take the back seat.

Nearly everything will stop and focus on the Budget 2018, but should it be so?

Firstly, do Nigerians have a report of the extent of the implementation of the 207 budget to the date? It would be expected that the projections for a new fiscal year should be preceded by a structured explanation of how the previous estimates have been realized.

In an interview with State House correspondents in October, Senate Leader Dr Ahmad Lawan expressed the upper chambers dissatisfaction with the level of implementation so far achieved.

After the appearance of the Ministers of Finance and of Budget and National Planning at a Senate hearing on implementation, it was reported that only about 15% of the N7.4 trillion of the 2017 budget had been released, a low figure which does not even tell how much of the released funds have actually been used for the purposes outlined.

Realistic fiscal planning should be based on the lessons learnt from the execution of previous projects. If there are no official reports on how well the 2017 budget has been implemented so far and the projected timetable for its full implementation, it would make the early presentation of a new budget merely an act to fulfill an obligation and impress the public, and not necessarily based on a strategic mission to improve on what has been done before.

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