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Budget 2018: Living on borrowed time

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Budget 2018: Living on borrowed time

By Olusegun Adeniyi

While experts are still dissecting the 2018 appropriation bill presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari on Tuesday and what it means in concrete terms for the average Nigerians, even laymen like me can see that when you combine the amount earmarked for debt servicing with the allocations for recurrent expenditure and then subtract that figure from the total, not much money will be left for capital projects if the budget were based only on our revenue earnings not padded by any borrowing.

What that therefore suggests very clearly is that we are still trying to dig ourselves out of the big hole we have put ourselves as a result of several years of irresponsible living. What is even more worrisome is that the Fiscal Sustainability Index of the states, as released by Seun Onigbinde’s BudgIT, presents a distressing picture: Only Lagos, Rivers, Kano and Katsina, in that order, can meet salary obligation to their workers without resorting to borrowing. The situation of some Niger Delta States is particularly pathetic despite the hundreds of billions of Naira that have accrued to them from the federation account in recent years.

Meanwhile, given that the dire economic situation has pushed the nation in the direction of an aggressive tax drive, which is where we ought to have started in the first place, the authorities should also be aware that such monies are meant to fund critical infrastructure and social services, not pay for the indulgence of public servants who store ill-gotten wealth in some ‘paradise’ havens even as they continue to live large at the expense of poor citizens.

While this is a conversation we must have someday, it is important that we come to terms with the reality that the fundamentals of our economy remain very suspect. And to successfully deal with the problem, we must also begin to fix the politics.

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