Nigerian Government to dialogue with lawmakers on amendments to 2013 budget- Okonjo-Iweala

Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The 2013 budget is yet to be implemented.

The Federal Government and the leadership of the National Assembly are to dialogue on contentious issues in the 2013 Appropriation Act.

President Goodluck Jonathan delayed signing the bill until about two months after it was passed in December 2012.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said on Thursday in Abuja at the media briefing on the 2013 Federal Budget that the areas of amendment would cover issues on personnel costs, composition of certain key projects, and restructuring of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P.

The Minister said allocations for salaries for some government agencies, funding for some major capital projects as well as the SURE-P budget in the budget proposal sent by the President last October for approval, but altered by the lawmakers, would need to be restored, and the reviewed amounts returned.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said the contentious zero-allocation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, is yet to be resolved, but added that the implementation of the budget cannot wait any longer, as the process already suffered more than two months delay as a result of the disagreements.

“The issue of exclusion of the SEC budget would not prevent the immediate commencement of the implementation of the budget,” the minister said.

“This is a budget for a country, and government cannot allow one issue to delay its implementation. We have been having discussions with the National Assembly. We will continue to look at it. But, we have all decided to move forward.”

For a start, she said, the first quarter capital appropriation would be released immediately after the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, meeting next week, saying that part of the allocations have already been front-loaded to meet Nigeria’s debt payment commitments for privatisation costs, including the N347 billion severance package for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, workers. She said the rest of the money would be released subsequently.

On Nigeria’s foreign reserves, the minister said this stands at about $47.38 billion as at end of February 2013, while the Excess Crude Oil Account, ECA, grew from $4.22billion in 2011 to about $9 billion in 2012.

On the performance of the 2012 budget, the minister said that government succeeded in releasing about N1.017 trillion for the implementation of various capital projects, while about N739 billion was cash-backed, out of which ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, were able to utilize N686 billion, or 92.8 per cent by the end of the year.

The 2013 Budget, she said, was designed to promote the continuity of the four main pillars on which the 2012 Budget was based, namely macroeconomic stability, structural reforms, governance and institutions, and Investing in priority sectors, adding that its implementation would continue the theme of fiscal consolidation with inclusive growth.

She identified the key priority of the budget as reduction in cost of governance, saying government is committed to sustaining its policy of re-balancing its expenditure in favour of capital investment over the medium term, with recurrent reduced from 74.4 per cent in 2011 to 67.5 per cent in 2013, while capital spending has increased from 25.6 per cent in 2011 to 32.5 per cent in 2013.

Other areas of priority include debt management, investments on infrastructure and job creation. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said that government is working on creating about 3.5 million jobs in the agriculture sector, with more jobs expected to come from the housing and construction, solid minerals, aviation sectors as well as the creative industries.

She said government would continue to support the development of the manufacturing sector, through various fiscal measures to support local entrepreneurs, with zero per cent import duty and value added tax, VAT, on all machinery and equipment imported for the solid minerals sector.

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