Path to the Buhari prosperity
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s budget speech inspired hope. Budgets are no mere political rhetoric. They are statements about economic indices, government expenditure, revenues accruable to the treasury, and the parlous state of infrastructure. The 2016 budget raised great expectations on poverty, unemployment and transportation.
The greatest promise of the budget is welfare state. Also, the 2016 budget shares its vision with the British economist, John Maynard Keynes who brought the idea that during recessions, government should expand fiscal policy by investing in labour intensive infrastructure in order to increase demand, stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment.
However, we know that our 2016 N6.08 trillion budget has a deficit of N2.22 trillion. And that this deficit will be funded through borrowing. Moreover, this is 2.16 per cent of the Nigerian economy’s GDP. This debt will bring Nigeria’s overall debt to 14 per cent of the GDP. In Keynesian oriented policy framework, this is acceptable. Likewise, running a deficit economy in a recession is acceptable, except that it will inflict a smattering of pain.
With the economic decline stemming from the oil glut, we have to build prosperity through infrastructure financing in order to create economic rebound essential for our return to happiness. In spite of the leftist learning propensity of this administration, we should rally round Buhari and help him promote and achieve the welfare state in Nigeria.
The total revenue collected by the federation in 2012 was $40 billion through the NNPC, the Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and others. But by 2013 our collectable revenue had declined to $37.5 billion and by 2014 the collectable revenue only improved marginally to $38.6 billion. Albeit, by 2015, only $14.8 billion which is less than 40 per cent of the preceding year, had been collected.
To resolve the economic crisis facing the nation Buhari must, without any further delay remove oil subsidy. Should the president wish to subsidize the people, such areas as agriculture, electricity and transportation are relevant. There is also the urgent need to privatize government stake in oil joint ventures, refineries, the railway and airports. Indeed, we must cut the suffocation of governance and exclude from the 2016 budget, wasteful projects including the constituency projects of legislators, which have become draining pipes for the National Assembly.
The Central Bank should institute a one trillion naira import substitution and agricultural loans scheme that will alleviate poverty and deprivation currently ravaging the country. The loans should be interest and collateral free and should be attached to specific trades and vocations.
The President’s efforts at sanitizing Nigeria deserve public support. The world is increasingly becoming an integrated global community. We are at the crossroads as the UN Millennium Development Goals were concluded in 2015. It has now been replaced with sustainable Development Goals, which can only take hold in Nigeria if renewed attention is given to curbing every manifestation of corruption. Corruption poses critical challenges to economic and social developments, and diverts resources from legitimate causes beneficial to society at large.
Corruption also restricts millions of Nigerians on a daily basis in their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, contributing to the perpetuation of poverty, hindering economic opportunity and causing political upheavals such as the Boko Haram insurgency and Niger Delta militancy. Efforts to end corruption and achieve sustainable development must have at their core, the full participation and involvement, at all stages, every young person. As the next generation of political and business leadership, the young represent the fundamental fabric of society.
Greater attention should be paid to comprehensive education and skills acquisition education for the future generation. Such efforts ensure that school and university curricula are updated and modernized in line with societal changes and developments to reinforce positive ideas and social values for future generations.
Every child should have adequate access to education and the necessary government and community support.
Closely related to an education orientation of anti corruption is the need to create a culture of integrity which is strongly wired to the society. Civil servants, political leaders and private sector actors – both individually and collectively, can immediately begin and strengthen a culture of integrity that concentrates on high quality service and professional performance standards; embracing basic principles as no cutting corners, no impunity, not being above the law. This wisdom is not to be found on the top of the graduate school mountain, but in the sand-pile at elementary school.
Three, there must be mechanisms to check on thinking and behavior that would represent a backsliding to the previous corrupt regime of doing things in the public and private sectors. To create oversight institutions, the public should demand accountability from their leaders, civil servants, and private sector leaders. And such demand must be sustained through challenging periods of political transition or even during an economic recession, when temptations for engaging in unlawful and corrupt behavior will be at their highest levels.
It is hoped that President Buhari will pave the way for a truly transformative agenda which will harness the energy of the next generation of Nigerians to build on these principles of integrity, professionalism and accountability.