- Emphasis should be on putting the people first!
HERE we go again into yet another budget cycle. Without a notable advance in delivering the dividend of democracy, much of the populace who are facing a cost-of-living crisis are indifferent to the announcement of the budget proposals at any level. This is a real shame; for budget proposals should ignite great public debate, suggestions and ideas.
From this perspective, the Federal Government 2024 budget leading with Defence, Education and Health is on the Right path;nevertheless, we are far from where we ought to be. The expectation was that the budget proposals for 2024 would be promoted as the vehicle and an agenda for the attainment of sustainable development and the attainment of “life more abundant”.
There really ought to have been greater emphasis on, for example, the construction and rebuilding of rural roads as a way of combatting food shortages and increasing the productivity and livelihood of the subsistence farmers. In addition to this, the budget proposals should have had an emphasis on the coming into being of the proposed National Commodities Board. This is of fundamental importance for the present hyperinflation is cost-push.
There is therefore a need for modulating mechanisms to act as a buffer without introducing ineffective price controls. This agenda should be put on the front burner when the Senate begins consideration of the proposals. In addition, there ought to have been a national housing scheme targeted at low-earners to be given out on a monthly rent to buy formula. These were a tremendous success in the first Republic of Nigeria and were pivotal in turning the local building materials sector in Brazil into the international standard of competitiveness. There are also a myriad of other policy issues such as the framework for turning Nigeria into an export-oriented economy by diversifying our foreign exchange earning base, which is too narrow and over-dependent on crude oil and gas export.
The legislature has its work cut out. Frankly speaking, one month is too short for the thorough consideration of a budget proposal. We suggest that the budget should be proposed henceforth in September in other to allow for due diligence and at the same time meet the January-December budget cycle.
However, it is not just an issue of time. The inability to set up a much-needed Congressional Budget Office (CBO) since 1999 put a limit on the technical capacity of the national assembly, not just to consider and amend budget proposals but also to monitor their implementation and evaluation. This says a lot about the nature of our polity. All manner of frivolous spending has been approved since 1999, which means that the inability to set up a congressional budget office is not an oversight. This must be rectified immediately for a congressional budget office as we have seen in other climes brings real technical capacity to the budget cycle, thereby enhancing oversights functions of the legislature, and leading to greater transparency and better oversight of the budget process, monitoring and implementation as well as enhancing the competitiveness of the public sector and the overall competitiveness nation’s economy.