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N8 Trillion for 2016 Fiscal Year, A Fantasy Or Actuality? By Opara Prince

It is no longer news that the current administration appears to have a way with words. Besides the knack to successfully cause expectations to go defiant of gravity, they are also gifted in the art of suspense. And it so happens that these politically motivated emotional manoeuvres are subject to prompt timing. I mean, right after the hope-levitating campaign promises the next was the ministerial nomination and screening which left the whole country basking in anxiety, and just less than a week ago Nigeria was declared bankrupt.

The commander-in-chief, the chairman of the national economic council alias vice president insinuated the federal government is currently working on the 2016 budget which is extrapolated to be between N7tn to N8tn. Going by the projected figures, it is clearly a far cry from the 2015 budget of N4.4trn which is technically a stone throw from a 100% increment.

Considering our very own Ebenezer Scrooge alias Mr President, most Nigerians where probably anticipating a much more conservative numeral budget-wise. Quite a colossal sum for an administration that recently cried foul of insufficiency. Furthermore, such a quotation doesn’t seem to add up on account of the fact that the country is purportedly tending towards a recession.

A figure of such magnitude in my opinion could mean more sanctions, possibilities of a mass recruitment, cancellation of waivers, less tax exemption and ultimately more tax. Considering our current economic state, the economy lacks permeability for taxation of any sort, talk more of an increase which could facilitate the undesired and also heat up the macro environment. In my viewpoint, N8tn isn’t so lofty a sum for Africa’s largest economy, but the margin relative to the penultimate fiscal year baffles me.

On second thought, 5,000 multiplied by 25,000,000 multiplied by 12, and the feeding of schoolkids nationwide is close to justifying the jaw-dropping lump sum. I can only assume the cost of implementing the aforementioned campaign promises is most likely responsible for the N8tn, or maybe not either ways in due time the elucidation would be televised.

The big question remains: how the FG intends funding the budget in a period of plummeting oil earnings? Despite the era in which oil price was as healthy as $105-$110 per barrel, the past regime at best could come up with N4.9tn. Assuming there is any sincerity in the possibility of the recent budgetary proposition ever materialising, it could make good on the allegation levelled against the past administration of not being completely honest to Nigerians with their enumeration.

As I recollect, earlier in the year, the House of Reps accused the then-incumbent administration of aiding government offices in spending an unaudited sum of N16tn annually which when compared with the official annual disbursement summed up to N20tn.

However, judging by the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari, the lead rule one wouldn’t be derailing to infer that the funding of the N8trn could be premised solely on the perceived positive resultant of the following moves recently proposed to be initiated: introduction of the TSA, recovery of looted funds, blockade of loopholes, taxation and anti-corruption stance. Since the introduction of the TSA, coupled with the current economic downturn, the system in just three months has been able to mobilize N1.4tn excluding the 137 MDAs yet to key into the platform. From a rational standpoint, I surmise by the time full compliance is initiated, ceteris paribus, N2tn should be the least expectation.

On the issue of blockading of loopholes: the NPA boss few months ago promulgated the RIMS (revenue invoicing management system) platform which has supposedly succeeded in blocking 95% leakage in the NPA’s operational activities and, according to Habib Abdullahi, the use of the RIMS platform is projected to double the agencies revenue in 2016.

They say a problem is half solved when the root cause has been identified. Speaking of taxation, there is need to be hopeful as it has been discovered that 72.3% of the 450,000 companies in Nigeria are tax evaders. So far, from the 27.2 complaint tax payers the service has been able to generate N2.374tn in seven months. Logically, on capturing of the non-complaint 325,000, the current figures are expected to double.

On account of looted treasury, moves aimed at repatriation of looted public funds are ongoing in the US and other countries. Sometime in the year, the British and Swiss governments pledged to return stolen funds hidden in their country back to the federal government of Nigeria. It becomes worthy of note that pilfered treasury stashed overseas between 1970 and 2008 are estimated to reach the tune of $217.7bn, with $700m already restituted to past administrations.

Also you’ll accede, the lesser the corruption in our society, the more probable an economic growth. At least every month since the birth of this administration, business in the legal system has experienced a boom as there seem to be a high demand for probes in the country with the public service being the largest consumer.

What is more, the choice budgeting technique (“zero-based budgeting”), which eliminates wastage of resource allocations ascribed to frivolous assumptions, happens to be my favourite because approval of every dime outlined by the various ministries is subjected to a litmus test of justification. This almost puts a stop to business as usual for intending looters. A distinct and much thriftier methodology compared to what was obtainable with the GEJ administration.

I think the incumbent administration means business. And in the spirit of fairness, irrespective of their incessant rambling, they deserve the benefit of doubt through the four-year tenure. Who knows? They could escape the obvious trap (loan from the IMF/World bank) of further indebting a country already notorious for running budget deficits, and perhaps pull a rabbit out a hat.

Opara Prince was born in the south-south region of Nigeria but brought up in the southwest. He has a key interest in Nigeria’s socio-political scene.

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