Nigeria: …On Our Way To A Performing Budget
By Ayodeji Sunday
The Nigerian budget of 2012 and 2013 has generated a lot of public interest – and rightly so. After all, the budget is the most concrete declaration of our government’s national priorities; and it’s good we are now beginning to take government to task on the management of our nation’s resources.
It is no news that over the years, the performance of the Nigerian budget has been far from desirable, as will be revealed by a cursory examination of relevant facts and figures. However, at a closer look, it is easy to see that we are on the path to recovery. You probably don’t agree with that. Wait until I clarify my point. I do not dispute the abysmal performance of the Nigerian budget so far. But with the new paradigms that are being adopted in the process of budget preparation and implementation, one can confidently affirm that things are getting better.
Any lettered individual can examine the 2012/2013 budget and see its close kinship with budgets that work in western and other African nations. Thanks to the economic team headed by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Gone are the days when the budget process is shrouded in mystery. Now, improved budget transparency has increased public engagement in the budget process and the masses can actively participate in and potentially influence the way in which their money is being spent.
Just like what obtains in other countries, we have witnessed a significant increase in the capacity of Civil Society Organisations to hold the government accountable for decisions related to allocation of public funds. Notable among such bodies is the Citizens Wealth Platform, a group of non-governmental and faith-based organisations. This development has ensured that the budget is more favourable to the interests of the poor masses who constitute the larger percentage of the population.
It is also encouraging to note the drop in recurrent expenditure from a worrisome 74% in the 2011 budget to 71.47% in the 2012 budget and 68.66% in the proposed 2013 budget. Simultaneously, capital expenditure is expected to rise from 28.53% in 2012 to 31.34% in 2013 and will continue in like manner subsequently. The steady downward trend in recurrent expenditure and upward trend in capital expenditure is another development that is in line with international best practices.
What is more, the government has expressed its commitment to ensure that the budget makes practical impact on the areas that matter most to the Nigerian people – job creation, power supply, roads, rail, other infrastructure and, of course, agriculture. One cannot but recognise the efforts of the economic team to ensure that the nation’s resources are managed prudently and transparently while prioritizing key growth sectors of the economy and national security.
The efforts of the Finance Minister to ensure early implementation of the 2013 budget is yet another positive step in bridging the gap between our national budget and the performing budgets of other nations. Even though we still have a long way to go, it is reassuring to know that we are on our way to having a performing budget. We may not be there yet, but we are definitely not where we used to be.