By Chukwudi Enekwechi, JP
On Thursday 7th October, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari in consonance with the country’s annual ritual presented the 2022 Budget, christened Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability to the joint session of the National Assembly. Before dropping the major highlights of the new budget, the President characteristically went down memory lane to narrate the challenges that affected the performance of the preceding 2021 budget. From the positive side of his narration on the 2021 budget, the President informed the august body that the expectation is that his administration will be in a position to fully fund the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) capital budget by the end of fiscal year 2021.
Furthermore, the President in a delightful note regaled the lawmakers that his administration has so far prioritised its capital expenditure on critical ongoing infrastructural projects in the rail, roads,power, agriculture, health and education sectors. Specifically, it was revealed that significant progress has been made on the railway projects as the Lagos-Ibadan line has been completed and operationalised, while Abuja-Kaduna line is also running efficiently, and Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line has been completed 30 years after it was initiated.
Still on the railway sector, Nigerians learnt from the President’s Budget speech that government is about to complete the Ibadan-Kano Line, while work will soon commence on the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Line and the Calabar-Lagos Coastal Line which will connect the Southern and Eastern States to the Northern parts of the country.
On power generation, we learnt that several power generation, transmission and distribution projects, as well as off-grid solutions, are ongoing with the aim to achieve optimal power supply to the country by 2025.
Similarly in the area of roads infrastructure, the President announced that 13,000 roads and bridges projects are currently being constructed across the country. The President listed some of the major roads that his administration has made significant progress to include the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Apapa-Oworonsoki expressway, Abuja-Kano expressway, East-West road and the second Niger Bridge.
The Budget presentation also offered the National Assembly the opportunity to know that a remarkable progress has been made in the expenditure rationalization initiatives, as the number of MDAs captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) grew from 459 in 2017 to 711 to date. This policy is meant to institute transparency and accountability in government activities, as well as reduce waste.
Another related policy initiative meant to achieve rationalisation in expenditure and help attract more investments to the oil industry include the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 and the incorporation of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as a national oil company. This Act will open up the oil industry and boost profitability for all stakeholders.
It is also remarkable that despite the myriad of revenue challenges confronting the country, the Buhari administration is still meeting its debt obligations by servicing them promptly, and the Federal Government is on record to have released a total of 1.732 trillion naira for capital projects as at 4th October, 2021.
The thrust of the 2021 budget is on the policy of diversifying the economy by strengthening the Medium and Small Scale Enterprises, investing in critical infrastructure, reducing poverty, and minimising regional, economic and social disparities.
As a Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability, the 2022 budget, Defence and Internal Security will receive priority attention as all other development sectors are dependent on a safe and secure country.
The budget is also hinged on a 57 US Dollars per barrel benchmark at an exchange rate of N410.15 per US Dollar, and a projected growth rate of 4.2% and 13% inflation rate. It is also to be highlighted that the 2022 is designed to consolidate on the gains of the previous years as this is the last budget to be fully implemented in the life of the administration.
Despite the criticisms trailing the loans borrowed by the Buhari administration, it must be stated that the debt level of the Federal Government is ‘’still within sustainable limits’’, and this was aptly noted by the President in his budget speech.
Again, while the previous administrations frittered the huge loans they accumulated, the Buhari administration has ensured that all the loans being taken are tied to infrastructural projects that will impact positively on the citizens. Some of the areas for which the loans can be traced include the completion of major road and rail projects; power sector projects; potable water; construction of irrigation infrastructure and dams across the country, health care among others.
The Buhari administration is also famous for being transparent in utilising the available resources, plugging leakages in government revenue, and deploying scarce resources to projects that will make meaningful impact on the generality of the people.