By John Mayaki
On December 19, 2016, the Executive Governor of Edo State Mr. Godwin Obaseki, proposed a budget before a session of the Edo State House of Assembly. Contained in the speech are nuggets revealing a progressive philosophy for the generation and expenditure of state funds, and pointers to the governor’s sense of administrative awareness and sensitivity to the people’s welfare.
To his credit, Governor Obaseki has tickled critical fancy by continuously generating positive reviews for the practicability and transparency of the budget. Furthermore, there is a general air of satisfaction that the current administration has its priorities in the right places – improving the people’s standard of living.
The Coalition for Good Governance and Economic Justice in Africa (CGGEJA) has described it as “a realistic budget estimate with a good title which appositely reflects the content.” Clearly, the budget is scaling initial hurdles. However, it still has to run through the gauntlet of scrutiny at the House of Assembly before it can materialize as law.
The rub of many budgets lie not only in projecting income and expenditure, but also in implementation. On both frontiers, Governor Obaseki’s proposed budget is doing good.
The CGGEJA condemned the prevalence of mismanagement of funds in the country but seemed optimistic about Edo’s proposed budget saying that: “The problem with budgets in Nigeria over the years is poor implementation, but there is no doubt that this budget will perform positively if passed into law,” the body explained.
Accordingly, both grave problems did not escape the governor’s notice, and it is deducible from the budget speech that not only can the proverbial camel find itself making an appearance at the river at a handler’s behest, but it can also be disciplined to drink of it.
The speech proposed to employ the zero-budgeting policy also promising that the TSA system currently employed by the federal government can be a lifeline to consider as per implementation of the budget.
Here, Governor Obaseki must tread with caution and sound judgment, for the TSA system has come under media scrutiny due to the tedious procedural obstacles that impede speedy disbursal of funds.
Again, at the session before the House of Assembly, the governor listed certain promises and reiterated several commitments such that when the anticipated budget was eventually in the open, the audience had sufficing knowledge of where the money was likely to go. It will be a noteworthy accomplishment if the governor has been able to prove with his speech that the final destination of the people’s money is not an errant contractor’s pocket, but in the state’s infrastructure.
Caesar’s wife, it is unanimously agreed, must be above suspicion. Governor Obaseki, taking cognizance of this, dedicated time to explaining the philosophy that governed the formulation of the 2017 budget.
The governor explained in the speech that: “The policy directions of this budget are largely informed by my interactions with Edo people during my campaign which was validated in a strategy dialogue comprising political, religious and traditional leaders, professionals, civil society, women and youth groups.”
A commentator, Felix Osemwengie Isere Esq. expressed satisfaction that the ratio of recurrent and capital expenditure leveled at 50:50. He interpreted it to mean that that the Government is serious. Who would not?
The identified areas around which the budget is hinged include Economic Revolution (Agribusiness; Electricity Generation & Distribution Extractive Industry Development & Expansion; Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) development; Skills Development and productivity enhancement; Tourism, Culture, Leisure and Hospitality; Health Care Services; Utilities), Infrastructural Expansion, Institutional Reform, Social Welfare Enhancement, Culture & Tourism and Environmental Sustainability. One thing all these areas have in common is that they can promote multiplicity in revenue if they explored.
It is noteworthy that the Obaseki administration is aware of the need to grow the state’s economy and reduce reliance on the national coffers. This is depicted in the following quote from the speech; “…we shall engage our people more and explore ways to assist in making them more productive, for herein lies our prosperity; the prosperity of our people. We shall therefore take deliberate steps to improve the ease of doing business in Edo state, but drastically reduce the bottlenecks currently experienced by business people. Time limits will be set within which citizens can and should obtain permits such as building approvals, C of O, licenses etc from MDAs. We will establish a business bureau in the office of the Governor to co-ordinate and give effect to these government initiatives.”
Another commentator echoed similar optimism saying that: “The budget presented by Governor Obaseki is a pointer that this government means business. The normal tradition in Nigeria is formulating budgets with recurrent expenditure usually surpassing capital expenditure. Now, we have a 50-50 budget and I commend the governor for this bold step.”
Should Governor Obaseki maintain the momentum he has garnered in less than two months in office, perhaps he may bring about the change, which the All Progressives Congress is bent on heralding in the country. Needless to say, this position will remain an exciting pipe dream until the proposed budget survives scrutiny at the House of Assembly.
Mr. John Mayaki is Chief Press Secretary (Interim) to Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki