By Folashade Folarin
For many years, the nation’s budget cycle has been inconsistent without a definite pattern, giving rise to speculations and poor execution.
A government budget is an annual financial statement presenting revenues and spending for a financial year that is often passed by the legislature and approved by the president of the nation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that from 2011 to 2018, the time of approvals of the budgets had stretched into the New Year.
The earliest was that of 2013 which was submitted to the National Assembly on Oct. 10, 2012 and assented to by former President Goodluck Jonathan on Feb. 26, 2013, indicating a five month time lag.
All others were presented to the National Assembly in December and assented to in April, May or June.
That of 2018 was presented in November and assented to in June and is expected to run till June, 2019.
The N8.83 trillion 2019 “Budget of Continuity’’, was presented to a joint session of the National Assembly on Dec. 19. by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, 2019 is an election year and it is not certain that the budget will be passed before the elections or if deliberations on it will be concluded before the ninth National Assembly expires.
Dr Otive Igbuzor, former Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, said the government had failed to return to January to December. Calendar year.
“Recall that 2018 budget was presented to the National Assembly in November, yet it was not passed into law till June.
“Part of the problem is that the National Assembly is not on the same page with the executive on the governance of the country.
“I hope that the incoming government will solve this problem by working together with the legislature.”
On the 2019 budget, he said that considering the forthcoming elections, he doubts that it would be passed before the elections.
“As we have experienced over the years, a significant number of the legislators will not come back to the ninth National Assembly and if the budget is not passed before May 29, the implication will be that the new assembly will pass the budget.’’
According to him, it will be challenging for them since they will just be settling down for legislative duties.
Mr Atiku Samuel, Head of Research, BudgIT, said the economy of a nation depends solely on fiscal, monetary and trade policies to power it.
According to him, not presenting or passing the budget at the right time gives room for inconsistency, which in turn affects plans of other players in the economy.
He also said that this inconsistency renders fiscal stimulus ineffective and makes the pattern of spending difficult to track, adding that investors do not like volatility as it creates huge unmanageable risks.
Mr Ogbeida Benjamin, the Chairman, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Abuja chapter said that over the years, the delay in passing the budget had disorganised the smooth cycle that was implemented before.
“Also, the disagreements between the executive and parliament, especially in 2018 has affected the budget cycle, which made the government to increase the budget year, especially that of capital to June.
“So, what that portends is that if the National Assembly can work fast in harmony with the executive to approve the budget between Jan. and March, then we can have hope of going back to the original budget cycle.’’
However, Prof. Tamunopriye Agiobenebo, the President, Nigerian Economic Society (NES), said that Nigeria was only trying to imitate other nations of the world, something he said was not good enough.
“We are imitating the rest of the world without looking at our actual environment.
“That January to December is not good for us, the April to March 31 is the best for us although climate change is messing up things.
“That April is the rainy season and you can use it to plan and use the dry season to implement, but right now you are using the dry season to plan and you implement in the rainy season and that is a problem.’’
He added that if the nation wants to be consistent in its budget cycle, it should do what is convenient for it and that way be at par with the rest of the world.