The Federal Government said on Tuesday that despite the current economic difficulties, especially the persistent fall in revenue expectations threatening the smooth implementation of the 2016 budget, it was not considering any review of the document.
Budget and National Planning Minister, Udoma Udoma said during the town hall meeting in Abuja that although there were disparities between revenue projections and actual receipts in the last two quarters, government remained optimistic that the current situation would not last long.
The minister said government was keeping close watch on the trends on economic indicators, pointing out that its only worry was about the non-alignment of the trends with expectations in the budget fundamentals.
However, Mr. Udoma said if the downward trajectory persisted, government might make reasonable adjustments to accord with prevailing realities.
“At the inception of the current administration, the economy was facing several challenges, including declining oil prices and production, which led to declining external reserves and GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate,” the minister said.
“There was also rising inflation, increasing unemployment rate, insecurity, high cost of governance, corruption, infrastructure deficit and the worsening of key socio-economic indicators.”
The 2016 budget, the minister explained, was therefore designed to deal with these problems, pointing out that government took a deliberate decision to deviate from the past by assigning a reasonable portion of the budget to infrastructure development.
“This was not only to provide backbone infrastructure to the agriculture and solid mineral development, which are to redirect the country from sole dependence on oil for revenue, but to energize other sectors that are not fundamentally affected by government overheads that take the bulk of national budgets,” he said.
In spite of the dwindling economic resources, Mr. Udoma said the government was determined to use the budget as an instrument to reflate the economy, pointing out that why the budget was backed up with a Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) was to fundamentally address the challenges.
The SIP, he explained, was to direct the national economy towards sustainable development and inclusive growth, adding that the plan consists of 34 priority actions to be implemented along six major strategic areas, namely policy, security & governance; diversity of the economy; power, rail & roads; oil and gas reforms; ease of doing business, and social investment.
Apart from measurable implementation targets and its determination to boost economic activities, he said government was partnering with the private sector to fix infrastructure.
So far, more than N330 billion has been released in the 2016 budget for capital projects, inclusive of the capital in statutory transfers.
Also speaking, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, said government was always ready to engage with Nigerians and to explain its policies and actions as well as seek inputs from the people for the better governance of the country.
Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, said the current state of the economy goes back to more than seven years ago when successive governments gave more premium to recurrent to the detriment of capital expenditure.
She said this development, coupled with other untoward economic policies, paved the way for the current poor outing, assuring that government was determined to reverse the trend with increased capital expenditure and diversification of the economy from the current mono-product status.
“Diversification is an agenda the government must achieve,” Mrs Adeosun said. “It is a veritable means to unlock the economy and create more jobs for the people.”
The meeting, inspired by the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), focused on “Effective implementation of the 2016 Budget”.