Budget And Grammar Of Stakeholder Relationships (1)

The 2020 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari calls for multi-dimensional analysis. The exercise should lead to better public knowledge of what percentage of past budgets since 2015, have been actualized. Unfortunately not enough questions are being raised in that direction so far. Even states where projects are supposed to be located, are quiet in the face of endless delays to Federal Government budgetary promises. No State has presented a well- documented update of unfulfilled promises in Federal Government’s budgets. Somehow our political elite think it doesn’t matter.

And we should know why that is so. It is so because promises made by State governments in their own budgets to the indigenes and citizens resident among them, are often met by large scale default. Of course, our local governments hardly have any budget worth the name! In Rivers State and other Niger Delta States, the culture of robust public participation in budget process appears to be dying out. The culture that helped to make Nigeria’s Second Republic vibrant ( 1979-1983), is steadily being suffocated in 20 years of our Fourth Republic ( 1999-2019). It is caused by a new age of de-politicization of our democracy.

Why is this happening at Federal, State & LG levels? It is partly because the poverty of the masses has created a paradox: the social calculation that enslavement will force the majority of our people to “shine ya eyes” as we say these days, in order for us to stay alert and get organized to fight for a fair share of public policy attention, is not going so. Rather the poor masses appear to have been driven into volcanic silence!

It is that in a strong sense, a budget is a statement of how government wants to influence stakeholder relationships The weight of public policy attention government is allowed to allocate, does the magic. When the poor are disconnected from public policy process, they cannot influence allocations in their favour. They become reduced to continuous suffering. It can be said that for over 100 million Nigerians each budget year since 1999, appears to have punished the citizens. It can be said that UN’s report on global poverty, shows that since 2015 the poor in Nigeria have been condemned into worsening servitude as a perjorative form of NYSC ( Now Your Suffering Continues)! By the same budget mechanism each year, Nigeria feasts the political elite so that less than 10,000 well- connected people can become millionaires and billionaires. They do so from Federal and State budgets, designed to deprive the masses of equitable provisions to become effective stakeholder groups.

So our argument here is to suggest the need for public discussions of each budget to shift attention from too much of its micro & macro economics, in terms of how much money is involved and what each budget can deliver. We need to give equal attention to who is going to get the bulk of funds and what will the average Teachers, Police, Soldiers, Drivers, Traders and other productive labour in our business environment get? 

A second argument we seek to raise here is to empower Nigerians to query the foundation of our budget at LG, State or Federal levels. Going by the reported lamentation of Babatunde Fashola ( SAN) who was President Buhari’s “Three Canon” Minister of Power, Works & Housing 2015-2019, each budget is held hostage by a huge gap between pronounced expectation and actual funds to do what was promised between 2015-2018. In simple language there has not been enough foundation in the economy to guarantee expected amount of money necessary to keep afloat each year’s budget by President Buhari’s administration.

Thus we seem to be coasting on a Public Revenue management philosophy, that budgets can be built on a foundation of pure sand. If this is true, one would have expected that the 2020 budget proposal would have provided for public revenue pillars that are cast in a mix of concrete and iron, to assure maximum strength in the national economy. It is deceitful for any national economy not to highlight what targets of productive capacity, its budget will strive to grow from its human population through deliberate investment in target industries & business Sectors.

Nigeria’s budget tradition now appears to be growing not human productive capacity but more of unproductive debts that gulp huge funds as debt servicing. In a brilliant analysis published on the internet, Dr Jekwu Ozoemena highlights a trend that the Federal Govt has long gone above World Bank debt servicing ceiling of 22% since 2014 when debt servicing hit 29%. From 2015, Nigeria’s debt servicing profile has climbed to over 67% per annum. That is beyond a 100% increase from 2015 to 2019. But there is more to worry about the government’s budget management philosophy.

Has the productive capacity grown to match debt servicing trend? So where is government building relationship with its budget engineering? What stakeholder groups appear to be placed at advantage? In a country where worsening mass poverty has provoked greater tension around issues of ethnic, religious, geographical and access to wealth of the political elite, it is crucial to examine two things: first how well do Federal Government budgets point to a better future for Nigeria? And secondly what stakeholder groups seem positioned to serve as engine of growth or positive “arrow heads” to carry the national economy to achieve such a better future for Nigeria?

Despite all the primitive propaganda by various political elite and the Master / Servant objective structure of our political parties, it is becoming clearer that Nigeria’s economy is not growing necessary productive capacities at either national or State levels since 1999. Everything else is cosmetic.  President Buhari’s administration is no exception of this tradition. The cosmetics are to disguise that Nigeria’s political elite have been busy on a 20- year old survival stampede, to corner the treasury under cover of APC & PDP divide.

In truth the political economy of our budgets seem to throw Nigeria deeper into internal distress & weakens our international relevance. At least here are six issue areas to support my position, ie: (1) Loss of national competitive capacity to pursue Sector leadership on a regional or global scale. In 2019 our nation cannot seriously claim to be a viable “emerging market”, as we project minimum relevance to other major players in the global market. From 1999 what business Sector did any state or the national economy strive through deliberate investment building, to control in Africa’s regional market?

Since President Buhari’s administration in 2015 what Sectors of the economy are Nigerians being groomed to dominate? The US and China are engrossed in a Trade War to improve opportunities for their national industries. So too the regional tension in Europe over BREXIT as Ireland, Scotland and other parts of Britain fight the agenda to favour their local economies.

Nigeria is not showing sustainable national direction towards economic integration. It can be done through equitable enhancement of integration processes that cover target productive sectors in the 36 States. If each state is given commercially attractive incentives to domicile a set of sectors based on comparative advantage and competitive capacity building, Nigeria’s economy will begin to reunite the nation with it’s aggrieved parts. The country can move closer by the mechanism of one vibrant and huge internal market.

To be cont’d next edition.

Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown, former National President of NIPR is Managing Consultant /CEO of GRAIN Consulting.

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