Friday, 2 May 2014

Issues which vitiate the 2014 Budget

Issues which vitiate the 2014 Budget
By Bayo Ogunmupe

THE Jonathan budget of 2014 was presented to Parliament on 19 January 2014. It was presented on behalf of the President by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance and the coordinator of the Economy. The 2014 budget contemplates expenditure of N4.6 trillion. This comprises various expenditures, including a recurrent expenditure component of N2.4 trillion and a capital expenditure of N1.1 trillion. The balance is split between debt-servicing of N0.7 trillion, statutory transfer of N0.4 trillion and SURE-P of N0.3 trillion.
  Unfortunately, only 23.7 per cent of total expenditure is for capital projects, while recurrent expenditure stands at 76.3 per cent. Thus, the disparity skews the budget towards consumption at the expense of infrastructure, maintenance and expansion. Moreover, the absence of wisdom in the formulation of the budget did not stop at the micro distortions between capital and recurrent, specific items analysis revealed that the budget formulators have surrendered the treasury to embezzlers and fraudsters.
  Indeed, there are some egregious matters in the budget. For example: Healthcare are herewith shown:
A.  Building a VIP Wing at State House Clinic – N705 million
B.  Capital Budget for Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital: N328 million;
C.  Capital Budget for University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital: N310 million,
D.  Total budget for NOMA children Hospital, Sokoto: N89m.
From the foregoing, you can see that the budget formulators rated VIP Wing of the State House, Abuja higher in importance in terms priority than two teaching hospitals, a children’s clinic and a Pediatric Institute combined. These lopsided budgetary allocations vitiate the propriety of this vaunted transformational budget.
  To spend this disportionate amount of our revenue on a suitably kitted and exclusively resourced clinic is embarrassingly wasteful. The waste is all the more disconcerting when set against the negative reality that the very important persons set to use the clinic are known to travel abroad for medical treatment. It is therefore questionable why money was allocated in the manner it was done. The manner of allocation and itemization smacks of embezzlement.
  In the area of defence and national security, we believe the armed forces must be sufficiently motivated to compensate for their onerous task of combating the Boko Haram menace. The moneys allocated to militants cannot be justified. Training and making ex-militants to be self employed will cost less that half of what has been allocated to them.
  Thus, this 2014 budget proposals reward bandits, encourages militancy as against the officers and men of our armed forces. It is reprehensible that the salaries and allowances for 30,000 militants exceeds by more than 50 per cent, the cost of providing facilities for the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force combined. No wonder the opposition parties are calling for the blockade of the passage of the budget, more so when government can legally spend as much as they budgeted last year.
  But more worrisome is the cost of reintegrating the militants which exceeded the capital expenditure of the three service arms of the Nigeria armed forces. And what does the monetized cash benefit of N200 million to Oladipo Diya stand for? Isn’t Diya’s military benefit part of military pensions? Also, it is objectionable that the budget for the presidential airfleet is more that 50 per cent of the budget of the Nigerian Airforce. It is even more obnoxious that the budget allocation of the presidential Air Fleet’s rehabilitation is more than 30 per cent of the cost of rehabilitating all military barracks in the country. A backward country like Nigeria needs urgent development in electric power, small scale industries and youth employment. We cannot therefore fritter those moneys as government allocated. It is an affront to the Nigerian people for this budget of profligacy and larceny to be passed by the National Assembly.
  We believe that low human development and lack of job opportunities for the youth are responsible for the rise of terrorism in Nigeria. Which is why full employment should be cornerstone of the 2014 budget. This 2014 budget of 1820 pages will go down in history as one of the worst budgets, for being totally detached from the Nigerian reality. It is a shame that it was prepared by our Harvard educated Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as minister of finance.
  This bizarre budgetary bazaar cannot be justified by any stretch of the imagination going by the hardship and unemployment ravaging the country now.
  The allocation of N250 billion to the National Assembly is also exceptional. All the more so with 109 senators and 360 Representatives, per capita cost of maintaining them comes in excess of N530 million per member. This is all the more objectionable in a Nigeria where one out of five kids born today will die before his fifth birthday.
  Indeed, a fair budget should seek to eliminate reckless and larcenous planning and opt for the allocation of resources for social security and full employment. It is therefore necessary for the National Assembly to scrutinize the budget, pruning it of its larcenous aims and building it into a people oriented budget. Sadly, the recurring problems of dilapidated infrastructure in the universities and polytechnics do not seem to have been noticed by the budget.
  However, our major problems remain untouched by the budget. Our problems are poverty which can only be solved by full employment. That is employment for male and female, young or old. This can be tackled by our own Marshal Plan. This plan is simply achievable through interest free and collateral free loan programme for every citizen willing to borrow for import substitution industries. Such programmes have achieved miraculous economic development in China, Germany, India and Brazil.
  Our second problem is corruption. This is solvable through the establishment of social security. When there is social security for the young and aged alike, there will be no incentive to steal or embezzle.
  Let the Federal Government institute a social security scheme for all tax payers, it does not need to cover everybody at the beginning. Let us start it gradually such that it covers tax payers first, we can extend it to other strata of the society as time goes by.
  Thus, unemployment and corruption create or prolong poverty in the land. Poverty, disease and illiteracy create conflicts, the Boko Haram war facing Nigeria in particular. The solution therefore lies in the twin policies of social security scheme to take care of every citizen from cradle to the grave and a Marshall full employment Plan by which Federal Government provides interest free, collateral free loans for anyone wishing to borrow to establish a business of his own. It is trite economics to have separate banks for industry or agriculture. What it is required to develop the country is to provide loan facilities for every category or sector of the economy.
  We urge the National Assembly to rewrite the budget and put relevant indices there.

  Ogunmupe is a columnist with The Guardian. 

Let Nigeria Learn From Brazil
A GOOD leader must set goals for himself and the nation he leads. Which is why the Nigerian leader should create a niche for his country in the comity of nations.
  Although we are currently grouped with the MINT countries, we should strive to a better position particularly within the group being occupied by our contemporaries. We are now grouped with the MINT nations of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. All things being equal, Nigeria ought to belong to the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  It is only natural that if we cannot be counted among the G7 economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, USA, we should be with the BRINCS, then there being Nigeria. If we are to badger into BRICS, we should imitate its leading light-Brazil. More so when we share similarities. We are a former colony like Brazil. In fact, Brazil’s facts file is entrancing. Brazil has a population of 201 million as at 2011. She is 86 per cent urbanized. Their citizens speak Portuguese as the official language while Spanish and English are widely spoken as well.
  But unlike Nigeria, Brazil is 74 per cent Roman Catholic and 15 per cent Protestant. Brazil is a federal republic with a presidential system. She has 25 states compared to our 36. Brazil became independent in September 1822, it became a republic in 1889. Education is compulsory up till the age of 14 and there is 90 per cent literacy in Brazil. She has the largest crude oil reserves in the world.
  The nation which already meets many of its energy needs through biofuels reported huge offshore oil finds in 2007. Brazil is on its way to displacing France as the world’s fifth largest economy, coming after the United States, China, Japan and Germany. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is larger than those of the other Latin American countries combined. Brazil’s GDP grew by seven per cent in 2010. Brazil’s aerospace firm: Embraer is the third largest aircraft manufacturing company in the world, coming after Boeing and the Airbus.
  Brazil is a very peaceful country, never having fought a way or skirmish since 1870. Compared with fellow BRICS countries, Brazil’s zero allocation to defence differs from Russia’s $76.7 billion; India’s $46 billion; and China’s $126 billion. Basically, the BRICS are developing countries but who are believed to be at a similar stage of development but still considered to be more developed than Nigeria’s MINT group. In fact the BRICS are expected to overtake the G7 economies by 2027.
  The BRICS occupy a quarter of the world’s land area and more than 40 per cent of the world’s population in 2010. However, they accounted for only 25 per cent of the world’s gross national income. Another acronym: MINT coined in 2013 lumped Nigeria with Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey as nations in similar level of development. Though Brazil isn’t in the first world, because 90 per cent of her roads are unpaved and with pervasive slums, yet she does have plans to move up.
  Unlike Nigeria, Brazil is quick to adopt new technologies. Her 90 per cent literacy lifts her tops in Information and Communications technology, compared to Nigeria’s 60 per cent literacy. Brazil’s network equipment comes from different sources: Cisco Systems (U.S.), Juniper (U.S.), Huawei (China), Alcatel (France). However, the U.S. National Security Agency’s leak through Edward Snowden, has caused Brazil to re-examine its ICT strategies.
  Snowden’s allegations are that the United States is snooping on other countries. This prompted Brazil’s President to cancel a state visit to Washington in protest. What is more, Brazil is now empowering local communications companies for its network procurement. Brazil is now putting her resources in small scale internet companies. Thus, the winners are Brazil’s Datacom and Padtec, both of which already have business relations with the state owned Telecommunications Brazilian.
  Brazil’s local content policy is geared towards ensuring protection against back-door security holes, a potentially leakage source for foreign made products. What is more, there are innovations coming out of Brazil in this new millennium. Embraer, Brazil’s aerospace firm flies own home grown technology, a feat that China is trying to achieve. Brazil is now on the path of building her first geostationary satellite, enhancing the country’s remote-imaging and weather prediction capabilities.
  Brazil also prides herself with her online voting and banking facilities. Her information technology sector earned her $37 billion in 2012. Stefanini, Brazil’s telecommunications giant operates in various countries including Canada, China, India, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Stefanini is expanding all over the world. It established a new software centre in China last December.
  Apontador is Brazil’s leading geo-location service company. It is developing tools which enable other companies see how users interact with their products. Predicta is also well ranked in Brazil as a tools developing company. The main point is that Brazil is aggressively pursuing the development of local technology as against Nigeria’s over-dependence on importation. In fact by comparison, taken seriatim, literacy level is the catalyst for development. Brazil is advancing because of her 90 per cent literacy rate. For Nigeria, our 60 per cent literacy rate and over 14 million unemployed put our nation out of touch with development reality.
  Thus, like Brazil we should open our doors for industrial development through a coordinated small and medium scale industrial strategy. Wherefore, we should enunciate a Marshall Plan in which various programmes are combined to achieve full employment. For example, both small scale enterprises enhancement loans scheme of the National Directorate of Employment and AMPLE group investment scheme should merge under the proposed plan. This plan must target import substitution schemes as means of full employment. This is the way we can move to the next development level by imitating Brazil’s small and medium scale development programme.

  Ogunmupe is a columnist with The Guardian

Title: Generations’ Power
Publishers: Strategic Book Publishing, Houston, 2013
Author: Bayo Baker
Reviewer: Bayo Ogunmupe
The Book: Generations’ Power contains success secrets that will shape you into an incurable optimist. Therein, you will also find theladder that you can climb to overcome various life challenges. Written in verse by Adebayo Baker, a branding and project development specialist, born a Nigerian with roots from the islands of the Bahamas. Generations’ Power is inspirational, enabling you to swim the oceans of life.
  It doesn’t matter if you are already successful, fulfilled and your life is going great, you still need this book to break through your comfort zone, for lifelong learning is the prescription for progress. This book has 210 verses, 242 pages, hardcover with glossy print. Author Baker introduced the book with prayers. He thanked the Almighty for providing him with the talent to square up with his circumstances. Baker sees writing this book as an assignment from his Maker.
  Baker says there are three types of people. Those who make things happen; those who watch things happen and those who wonder what is happening. He urges you to strive to become the first category of those who make things happen. The fifth verse of this book exhorts you to improve your faith and focus by surrounding yourself with people who will add value to your life. Another verse says you are not a leader worth being followed if you have no conscience. You should be able to tell the truth bluntly.
  In verse 10, the author avers that you should never be a cheerleader to other champions all your life. You should have an exalting opinion of your future greatness, by becoming your own biggest fan. But you must imbibe the principle of letting things go. Because when you let go, you can expect something better to replace the past. Whatever is yours and you deserve will always stay with yous or come back to you. Think create and sell ideas because developments always stem from ideas. And do the right things according to your instincts. Never be bothered by what bricks others are throwing at you. The great man is he who has been able to use the bricks thrown at him to build bridges for his own fulfillment.
  Verse 25 of Generations Power states that when you are nailed to the wall by life, the world might pretend with offers of help, but the lesson is that you should never put your hopes in any one person. But that you should put your hopes in God, Almighty. To do otherwise could be disastrous.
  According to the author, a successful business is strictly business. Love and business do not work together. But you may intimately love your business. You must ultimately be in love with your business commitments.
  Giving back to the people is the theme of verse 27. The richest men always give back to the people. So does Bill Gates, one who was once the richest man in the world. And in order to be a survivor, never depend on anyone, and never expect the loyalty of anyone. But you have one to lean on, the one everlasting father, the Almighty God. And that is your prime survival secret. That with God all things are possible.
  The principal motivators of life is the text of Verse 30. Here, Mr. Baker avers that passion, burning passion and patience should make you tick as a business person. He contends that if you chose money as the main object of your endeavour, then you might fail, because money can only give you temporary satisfaction. The purpose of reading is Baker’s next  preoccupation. Here, he says that the proper parameters of reading are to know, discover, improve and make positive impact on people. That through reading you can transform your life, transform others and the world at large. He admonishes you to read leisurely and seriously every day. You should also initiate a reading campaign.
  At verse 40, the author says it isn’t by body size, frame and might that you make it your Canaan. He says your brilliance, opportunity and your time management are the keys granting you access to making it in life. But you are irresponsible, greedy and thoughtless if you cannot share success secrets garnered over the years. With your secrets, you can inspire, empower and give for the development of the common humanity. Baker avows that the man who wins is the man who thinks he can and is determined to win.
  In verse 47, the author asks, what do you seek God for? He answers by saying what we should seek God for are miracles, mercies, favour, grace, happiness and longevity. Thereafter, he admonishes you to encourage no evil and do no evil. Thus, the worst things is for you to keep sitting next to the wrong people. He therefore enjoins you to choose your friends wisely. Moreover, you are urged to coin for yourself a good name. For names are your selling image. Perfect names win you fondness, opportunities, favour, clients and profits. Perception is more important than facts. Which is why your names have exponential value with other goodies following your great name.
  On marriage, Baker enjoins you to give a breathing space for your spouse, if you want to enjoy, improve and prolong your relationship. A friendship is desirable when it is workable, so nurture a relationship by making it mutually desirable. Stop stalking a desired friend endlessly. Otherwise you become an unwanted stalker. There are others who value and want you. Go get them and stop the tomfoolery!
  The author’s full names are Adebayo Baker. He is a branding and project development specialist. He makes a living as a writer and consultant. Being Internet savvy, Baker is a website designer, erudite scholar and literary critic. Baker is variously skilled in out of the box creations and planning. He is involved with Care Partnership Network, a non-profit association seeking to meet the vital needs for development, empowerment and advancement of children, youth and under-employed families. Baker is a global citizen, having been born a Nigerian with Bahanian roots.

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