Former CBN Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, has told Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and indeed all those who cared to listen that the 2016 budget presented before the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari is almost the same as that of his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Stressing that the present budget lying before federal lawmakers since December last year was a carbon copy of the one by Jonathan’s government, he pointed out that, “Defeating old bad ideas could be better that initiating new ones.”
The world-renowned economist said the proposed budget had a historic 37 per cent deficit to make recurrent expenditure higher than total revenue, pointing out that it is not the way to go for a government with “change as its mantra”.
Speaking yesterday at the 13th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, Soludo said he was worried over where the nation would be by 2050, lamenting that Nigeria had under-performed despite earning over $1trn from crude oil export over the years.
Noting that the money earned from oil has only kept the looting elite united and organised while the nation is now the fifth among states classified as failed states; he averred that the Nigerian constitution was designed for sharing and consumption regarding the nation’s oil wealth and not necessarily for the development of the country’s dysfunctional system.
The ex-central banker regretted that the country has been taking ten steps forward and eleven steps backward and urged the leaders to rise to the challenge posed by the fact that the period of oil boom is over, stressing that Nigeria has the potential to rise, but depended largely on the choices made by the leadership.
According to him, “The present budget is more of the same to the previous ones. Mr. Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osinbajo), if you scale your budget on the scale of GDP, it is almost the same with the previous government.
“It has a historic 37 per cent deficit as we never had it before. The truth is that you are borrowing 37 per cent with only 30 per cent allocated to capital projects.
“To craft the new agenda, we must defeat the old agenda. We cannot make progress in the country with the tools and agenda of the old,” Soludo said, adding that the APC-led government was over-following the fall in the price of crude oil globally.
He said the present administration needed to evolve a coherent economic plan and agenda as well as the right political architecture, stressing that anything less than this would mean that the leaders are building on a quicksand.
He regretted that 35 per cent of Nigeria land was already under threat of desertification which would affect agriculture, stressing that 11 to 12 states in the same zone are facing the problem of Boko Haram.
Soludo warned that there would be unchecked migration by 2050 if oil and gas, agriculture, and solid minerals have limited impact on employment and urged the federal government to begin to take steps to improve manufacturing and skills acquisition for Nigerians.
He added that Nigerians needed skills and where to use them and praised the administration for the preliminary steps it has taken to dismantle some of the things that strangulated the economy in the past few months.
The ex-CBN governor said the 2016 budget represented a missed opportunity for the government to set new standards for a post-oil economy, urging the government to take bold and audacious steps to make changes happen.
Responding to Soludo’s assessment of the 2016 budget, Vice President Osinbajo, who heads the federal government’s economic team, clarified that contrary to being a budget based on compassion as alluded to by former CBN governor, the budget was designed to address the plight of over 120 million Nigerians who have been alienated from governance and living below poverty level.
“The budget is about the economic survival of this people, and if we don’t do it, we are only postponing the dooms day. The planned recruitment of 500,000 teachers will fill a huge gap in our education system, it would put people to work and further improve our education system,” he said.
The Vice President emphasized that President Muhammadu Buhari and himself were prepared to serve with their integrity intact than any desire to make money in government.
He admitted that the nation was passing through a critical and interesting period, but that the President and himself remain committed to take the nation to the next level of social, political and economic development.
And it’s getting more interesting!