Chris Steven, Abuja
Amidst funding constraints in the implementation of the 2016 budget, the Federal Government may have concluded plans to send the 2017 budgetary appropriations to the National Assembly before November 2016 elapses.
This was as there are already speculations that the 2017 budget expenditures have been pegged at N6.866trillion,while N720billion has so far been gulped in implementing capital projects outlined in the 2016 budget.
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning,Zainab Ahmed gave the clue on Wednesday, after the Federal Executive Council(FEC)meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She said the budget documentation has reached an advanced stage and would be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval anytime soon,after which it will be transmitted to the National Assembly for vetting and passage.
While briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting,She attempted to justify the $29billion US dollars which President Buhari is seeking the approval of the National Assembly to borrow.
She said it was meant to meet deficits in the 2016 budget even as the country enters the fourth quarter of the year.
Buhari’s request was coming at a time when the country’s debt profile was in the margin of N16.3 trillion ($61.45billion) as at June 30,2016.
Beyond this,the Ministry of Budget and National Planning which is saddled with the responsibility of preparing the budget annually has outlined a Medium Term Expenditure Framework(MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper(FSP) earmarking $25billion dollars to be spent as infrastructural development fund.
Despite the volatile global oil market where prices have been fluctuating,government believes in the year 2017 it will average $42.5 per barrel and 2.2million barrels per day in crude oil productions all things being equal.
She said,”The 2017 budget preparation is at an advanced stage, the Economic Management Team has reviewed it extensively, the next step is that it is going to be brought into the Federal Executive Council for approval, thereafter it will be sent to the National Assembly.
“Concerning the borrowing plan that Mr. President has sent to the National Assembly for 2016, indeed included in the borrowing plan is the amount that is required for both local and foreign borrowing to fund the 2016 budget deficit.
“The budget implementation itself is on course, the 2016 budget is fully performed to date in terms of personnel, that is to say we are not owing any salaries at the federal level. Operational expenditure has been disbursed for eight months and the ninth month is just being processed.
“Capital expenditure has been disbursed to the tune of nearly 50 per cent. About N720 billion has been released, from the MDAs N1.5 billion as at the end of September.
“We are targeting to with the cooperation and assistance of the National Assembly will be approved inside of this year so that we will start implementation in January next year”.
Ahmed told reporters covering the Presidency, that FEC gave approval for the commencement of the home grown school feeding programme in which 25billion has been earmarked for release in the first tranche.
She explained that the funds for the school feeding programme fell under the government’s palliative scheme where half a trillion was budgeted for in the 2016 appropriations.
According to her,the programme which is the first phase would target 5.5million school children at the basic level, while the mass recruitment scheme for graduates which will be deployed for teaching at the rural setting would commence this year too.
She clarified that N30,000 would be given as remuneration for the graduate teachers but would elapse after a two year period.
Her words,”the budget ministry presented a memo to Council for notation and implementation on the progress of national roll out of the social investment Programme.
“The programmes are in four parts. First is the homegrown school feeding Programme which is targeting 5.5 million primary school people in all the states of the federation from primary 1-3.
“As at today, 11 states are fully ready to start and the first phase will feed 3.5 million school children.
“The second is a job creation programme which is aimed at preparing 500,000 university graduates, they will be equipped with devices contained information to train them as teachers, agricultural workers and also as health support workers.
“They will be deployed to work in their local community. They will be receiving a monthly stipend of N30,000 monthly for a period of two years.
“The third is the Conditional Cash Transfer, CCT, where one million care givers will be given N5000 monthly or a period of two years. Focus has been given to the extremely poor and vulnerable in our society and special emphasis is being placed on providing as many as possible the north eastern part of the country where a lot of internally displaced persons are.
“The fourth is the enterprise promotion programme which is essentially the loan scheme which will be handled by the Bank of Industry. 1.6 million people made up of market women, traders, artisans, small businesses, youths will be given loan from N10,000 to N100,000 with a repayment period of three to six months and administration cost of five per cent.
“N500billion was budgeted for the social investment Programme in the 2016 budget. We are rolling out with this first four programmes and it will continue till 2017”.