Below are key points from the speech of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki at the presentation of the 2018 appropriation bill on Tuesday.
1. As the country gradually recovers, it is important to reset the fundamentals that drive our economy – so we do not slide back into recession. We must reassess the relationship between oil and our economy. Oil prices are gradually inching up, but that is no reason for complacency in our diversification drive. We must grow our economy away from oil - as well as the need to increase non-oil revenue generation and collection.
2. Revenue from taxes as well as independent revenues from State Owned Enterprises must be taken seriously. If the budget is to be funded, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to revenue under-performance. While there is a need to review extant laws guiding the operation of some Government enterprises, I would urge for more determined effort on the part of the Executive, to plug leakages. This sector alone accounts for over 40 trillion naira in valuation, of which less than 400 billion naira is remitted as revenue to the Consolidated Federation Account. This is not acceptable. We need to vigorously address this area.
3. The budgets of parastatals and agencies are meant to be submitted with this budget presentation, as stipulated by the constitution. We must work to ensure that these are passed by the end of the year, and sanction those parastatals and agencies that fail to submit their budget along with the 2018 budget, and deny access to capital expenditure unless budget is passed.
4. Further to the area of increasing independent revenue, there is the need to review agreements that government has signed with some private sector service providers. Many of these agreements are biased, and clearly, not in the interest of the country.
5. We appreciate the need to spend, Mr. President. However, we must ensure that our borrowing is targeted at productive projects that will stimulate the economy. We must ensure real value-for-money in projects funded by borrowing, and make doubly sure that the projects are not overpriced.
6. To ensure consistency in government’s economic programmes and tax policies, we will be requiring that the submission of the 2018 Budget - and budget submissions going forward - be accompanied by a Finance Bill. This bill - which should clearly detail the imposition, alteration or regulation of taxes such as the proposed tax on luxury items and excise taxes, among others - will put the financial proposals of government into effect.
7. As we are all aware, many businesses were adversely affected by the recession; many lost their means of livelihood. As the country emerges from that period of uncertainty, the question on the lips of many Nigerians has been this: How does the recovery translate into tangible economic benefits for me? We must remember that the real gains must be felt on a personal level by the individual, for economic recovery to have meaning. People are seeking to get back to work but cannot find jobs. Entrepreneurs want to restart their businesses but are finding it difficult to access the needed capital. As for our farmers, the last thing they want is for produce to go to waste because people cannot afford to buy.
8. Looking around today, we see that many of our undergraduates are apprehensive about their graduation day; and our National Youth Corps members are not looking forward to the end of the service year, for fear of being tagged ‘unemployed’. While I commend your current efforts at tackling unemployment - especially among the youth through Federal Youth Programmes such as YouWin, N-Power, and YES-Programme - deliberate steps must be taken to make the 2018 budget a job oriented one.
9. In line with that, we must see to the implementation of the Procurement law, with particular relevance to the part that has to do with support for Made-In-Nigeria goods. The implementation of the 2018 budget must anchor on the Made-In-Nigeria project. This should be reflected in government procurements in 2018.
10. Let me now talk about mainstreaming social inclusion. Mr. President, each and every Nigerian wants to be part of the economic progress. We must never lose sight of the need for equity and balanced development across the entire spread of our country. Infrastructural development should be seen to be well distributed, to create growth pools away from the major city centres and drive the regeneration of our rural areas. Agriculture, for instance, is meaningless without those that will engage in farming in the countryside. The current rate of rural-to-urban migration is alarming and unsustainable – congesting the cities and stretching resources to breaking point, while undermining the economic viability of some states. People must be able to see a future for themselves in every corner of this country, not just in the big cities.