Medium term framework not ready
EXPECTATIONS that the 2016 budget would hit the confines of the National Assembly before the end of this year may have finally been dashed causing members of the National Assembly and stakeholders to predict a March 2016 timeline as the earliest date.
There are also strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari is not yet ready to even consider any document that could kickstart a wholesome budget process, except the just passed 2015 supplementary budget by both chambers of the National Assembly; Senate and House of Representatives. The supplementary budget was mainly to take care of the fuel subsidy payments.
National Daily checks in both the National Assembly and the Presidency suggests strongly, that the executive is yet to prepare the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which precedes every new appropriation bill.
The MTEF, which is a critical document that provides all known economic projections and fiscal policies of the country ahead of any formal budget law, consist of a macroeconomic framework that indicates fiscal targets and estimates, revenues and expenditure, including government financial obligations in the medium term. The document also set out the underlying assumptions for these projections, provide an evaluation and analysis of the previous budget and present an overview of consolidated debt and potential fiscal risks.
The MTEF is literarily a handbook or sort of guide to the lawmakers on what the key economic indices are, like the crude oil price benchmark and production ceiling and tentative revenue profile from which the budget could be financed. It is also a document that gives a tentative outlay of an overall fiscal plan of government for the fiscal year.
A senator who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are worried over the development, which according to him is an ominous sign that the government may indeed be facing a very serious problem taking off.
“It is not good for our quest to fast track development of the critical infrastructures as promised the Nigerian people by the All Progressive Congress (APC) government. The implication is that our people would be in for a rough deal with the attendant capital flight and apparent lethargic investment inflow”, he said.
The National Assembly would be proceeding on Christmas and New Year recess in the next two weeks, meaning that even if President Buhari is to rush in the budget bill, it will still remain in the ‘packet’ until the lawmakers resume in middle January 2016.
It could be recalled that by this time 2014, legislative work on the 2015 budget had reached advanced stage. However, it is a different ball game this time around with a new government in place.
The development has further fueled anxiety in both the economic and political circle, thus raising doubt on the exact policy focus of the present government.
But, Senator Ita Enang, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) says that Nigerians should be patient with the Buhari administration, explaining that all hands are on deck to put the MTEF in place to ensure easy passage of the 2016 budget when presented to the National Assembly.