The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South), has said the 2020 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari is not sustainable.
He made the statement on Wednesday during the deliberations of the Appropriation Bill.
The President had on Tuesday proposed N10.33 trillion for the federal government’s budget for next year
One assumption of the budget is that Nigeria will use nearly a quarter of the budget (N2.5 trillion) to repay debts the government owes locally and internationally.
The budget was also prepared on the assumption of $57 per barrel with crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day.
Mr Buhari also presented the Finance Bill to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law.
The Bill seeks to increase the Valued-Added Tax rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.
The lawmakers commenced debate on the Appropriation Bill and it was the turn of the Minority Leader to speak.
Among other things, Mr Abaribe condemned the names given to the Bill, the increase in VAT as well as the increase in the production of crude oil.
He also described the budget as a budget of taxation.
“Very many things were put and jumbled together: budget of fiscal consolidation, investing in critical infrastructure…and so forth. In other words, putting everything together like that reminds us of what Shakespeare said: a tale full of sound and fury signifies nothing,” he began.
At this point, he was interrupted by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who reminded him that it was not a literature class.
“I want to suggest a name to those who wrote this speech for the president that this is nothing but a budget of taxation,” he continued.
Again, Mr Lawan interrupted him. “I just want to appeal to you to talk to what was read in the budget speech.”
Mr Abaribe, however, re-emphasised the proposed name for the bill.
“This is a budget that is based on taxation. Its is based on 7.5 per cent increase in VAT, based on several other increases.
“How would you talk about job creation when you do not invest in what will create jobs? Debt servicing as a component is higher than capital expenditure. Two trillion for capital expenditure, 2.4trn for debt servicing.
“The projected growth that they put in the budget was 1.9 per cent, less than the population growth of 2.6 per cent. So, if we look at it globally, we are still struggling. We may have to take over and direct the economic policy of this government. having seen that they have not done anything and they have failed,” he said.
Mr Abaribe also said the nation’s projection for the cost of oil may be off the mark.
“I know that our people were happy when there seem to be a little problem in the Middle East with Iran which will lead to a spike in the oil price. But that seen to have gone down, which means that our projection for the cost of oil may also be off the mark.
“Second one is our projection for the production level daily. Last year, the average production level was 1.8 million barrel per day. Why don’t we just keep it there? Why must we go up to 2.1 only to be disappointed at the end of the day?,” he said.
The lawmaker then pleaded with his colleagues to look at facts before accepting the bill which he said is not sustainable.
“I know that you have promised the executive that we are going to work very well with the executive to produce the budget but I plead with my colleagues to look at the facts. You cannot run away from facts.
“The facts say this is not a sustainable budget. The facts say that if we need to change, we must be able to look at the critical fundamentals of this budget speech and make adjustments as due,” he said.
On his part, Mr Lawan said Mr Abaribe’s presentation was laced with inaccurate information.
“That brilliant presentation was laced with inaccurate statistical information but all the same, you are entitled to your opinion.”
The presentation of the 2020 budget sparked reactions from Nigerians and political parties. While the All Progressives Congress said the budget is aimed at consolidating the gains of the administration, the Peoples Democratic Party, however, said the budget will further impoverish Nigerians.
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