Reflecting on the 2018 budget presentation by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly, a former governorship aspirant in 2011 election in Kaduna State, Alhaji Shuaibu Idris Mikati has warned the National Assembly (NASS) members not to give condition before approving and passing the budget into law.
In a statement made available to journalists in Kaduna, Mikati expressed worry over alleged comments by the lawmakers that without a cordial relationship with the executive arm of the government, the budget will not enjoy speedy passage.
To this end, the former Gubernatorial Aspirant reminded the legislators that it will be to their own advantage if the budget is speedily passed because another general election is around the corner when they will give an account of their stewardship to the electorate.
He further noted that quick passage of the budget will help the country to progress economically, socially and politically for the betterment of the citizenry.
He, therefore, urged the legislators to put aside any form of settlement and work for the interest of the nation.
He said: “The 2018 budget proposal presented on Monday by President Buhari appears to be well articulated as its seek to build on the modest successes achieved by the administration from the implementation of its first budget tagged budget of change and the second budget tagged budget of recovery and growth. The tag given to the 2018 budget being a budget of consolidation is quite apt and appropriate.
“The challenges of implementation, as well as the passage of the appropriation bill, still persists.
“One wonders the basis and or rationale of the comments made by the leadership of the National Assembly on somewhat putting a condition on quick passage of the bill to the cordial relationship between the legislature and executive.
“Consideration of bills from the executive is not a privilege. Its a right and a duty of the legislators.
“It’s above all in the mutual interest of the executive and the legislative arms of the government, being elected officials who would seek reelection sooner rather than later.
“Without an appropriation, the much talked about and dividends of democracy would not be provided to the electorates and politicians would thus not have any project to show to the electorates. The legislature has had the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) presented to them months before now.
“The fundamental assumptions behind the budget are also quite reasonable and realistic except for a few. The proposed oil benchmark price of $45 per barrel is conservative enough but I see the hawks in the National Assembly increasing the benchmark to at least $50 per barrel.
“The daily crude oil production target 0f 2.3 million barrels per day appear to be too ambitious given the current level of investments in oil exploration and development, government’s inability to provide its portion of funding to oil companies and the issue of OPEC production quotas.
“It’s gratifying to also note the increment in allocation to key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, education, transport and works and housing.
“However there is need to look at health sector also because of its strategic importance to the nation. Needless to say that there is the need for improvements in the allocation to education and agriculture given the cardinal principles of the administration and governments commitments such as Malabo Declaration of budgeting at least 10% annually to agriculture and the need to achieve food security.
“The composition of the estimate as regards capital, recurrent and debts servicing leaves much to be desired. It’s encouraging seeing capital expenditures reaching 30% of the budget but it’s worrisome to note the level of recurrent expenditures and debts servicing.
“Government must find ways to drastically cut down on waste as well as the entire recurrent expenditure so as to significantly achieve improvements in capital spending.
“Government must also exercise care and caution on the issue of debts servicing particularly with an increase in the level of both local and external borrowings. Dollar interest rates are set to increase which would hurt us more given our level of exposures now in foreign loans”, he said.