President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presented the 2016 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, as the nation faces an economic crisis made worse by fuel scarcity and falling Naira.
If properly implemented, the budget presents measures that could help the country chalk out path to development. From job creation initiatives to social security program, PREMIUM TIMES’ National Assembly correspondent, Hassan Adebayo, lists six key things to expect in 2016.
1. Tax reduction for small businesses: “This budget is the platform for putting more Nigerians to work,” Mr. Buhari said, adding that “Nigeria’s job creation drive will be private sector led.” “We will encourage this by a reduction in tax for businesses as well as subsidizing funding for priority sectors such as agriculture and solid minerals.”
2. 500,000 teaching jobs: As an emergency measure to address the “chronic shortage” of teachers in public schools across the country, the president promised that 500,000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders would be trained and deployed in partnership with state and local governments. He said, “These graduate teachers will be deployed to primary schools, thereby, enhancing the provision of basic education especially in primary in our rural areas.” A similar approach was implemented under late Umar Yar’Adua through Federal Teachers Scheme, FTS.
3. Implementable and transparent conditional cash transfer program: “This is for the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians whose data are currently being compiled, Mr. Buhari said; and will be implemented through the office of the vice president. He added that the program would be implemented in phases. Already, the president had indicated in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2016-2018 the allocation of N500 billion to fund social security program. It is expected that this channel through which the government will fulfil the campaign promise of N5, 000 social safety net for vulnerable or unemployed Nigerians.
4. Free tertiary education for science, technology and education students and home-grown public primary school feeding: This is billed for public presentation “in the coming weeks” and “will mark historic milestone for us as a nation”, the president said.
5. Large-scale infrastructural development: Nigeria currently faces huge infrastructural deficit, thereby, negatively affecting businesses and more importantly, all-round wellbeing of citizens. This is one challenge Nigeria may begin to address, if 2016 budget is properly implemented. The budget votes N1.8 trillion for capital expenditure, representing 30 per cent of the total budget of N6.08 trillion. Last year, the capital vote was 557 billion. In fact, a total of was N11 billion budgeted for the Ministry of Works. Giving breakdown of the 2016 capital vote, Mr. Buhari said, “This increased capital expenditure commits significant resources to critical sectors such as Works, Power and Housing – N443.4 billion; Transport – N202.0 billion; Special Intervention Programs – N200.0 billion; Defence – 134.6 billion; and Interior -53.1 billion. He continued, “These investments in infrastructure and security are meant to support our reforms in the Agriculture, Solid Minerals and other core job creating sectors of our economy.” “This is a fulfilment of our promise to align expenditure to our long-term objectives, and a sign of government’s commitment to sustainable development,” he added.
6. Improved services delivery and security: Given that proper budget implementation is achieved, it is expected that Nigerians experience improved service delivery and security as the government plans to devote a significant portion of recurrent expenditure to institutions that provide critical services like education, N369.6 billion; defence, N294.5 billion; health, N221.7 billion; and N145.3 billion in the Ministry of Interior. “This will ensure our teachers, armed forces personnel, doctors, nurses, police men, fire fighters and many more critical service providers are paid competitively and on time.”
In his closing remarks, Mr. Buhari said, “I know many people will say “I have heard this before”. Indeed, trust in government, due to abuse and negligence of the past, is at an all-time low. This means we must go back to basics. Our actions will speak for us. My team of dedicated, committed and patriotic Nigerians is well aware of the task ahead and I can assure you that we are taking on the challenge.”
Mr. Buhari also echoed the common knowledge that every analysis of Nigeria’s development crisis must come to grip with the challenge of corruption which practically involves diversion of developmental funds for private use, thereby leading to soaring nature of poverty, hunger, infrastructural decay and poor service delivery among other that characterise contemporary Nigeria. Against this background, the president emphasised his commitment to the pursuit of “the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria. No matter where it is hidden. No matter how long it will take.”