Your 2019 budget is ‘fundamentally flawed’ – Atiku slams Buhari

The presidential candidate of the main opposition party in the 2019 presidential election, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has punctured the 2019 budget proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari describing it as “fundamentally flawed.”

Abubakar gave the verdict in an article in which he averred that the budget proposal “deliberately ignores and fails to address current realities.” He questioned the budget and its foundations.

Buhari presented a N8.83 trillion budget proposal to the National Assembly last week.

According to the PDP candidate, “The 2019 budget is built on very shaky foundation and makes very generous, often wild and untenable assumptions which pose significant risks to its implementation.”

Abubakar said that inaccuracies litter the budget and so, it would amount to disservice to the country the flaws are ignored.

Read his full statement below.

President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2019 Budget Proposals to the Joint Session of the National Assembly on Wednesday 20 December 2018. Its key aim is to, according to the President, ‘further place the economy on the path of inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth in order to continue to lift significant numbers of our citizens out of poverty’. The 2019 Appropriation Bill proposes an aggregate expenditure of N8.83 trillion for the year of which N4.04 trillion is recurrent, N2.31 trillion capital and N2.14 trillion will be devoted to debt service. The planned spending is lower than the 2018 budget by N300 billion. Allowing for 11% inflation rate, its real value is N7.95 trillion.

The proposed budget as presented is fundamentally flawed. It deliberately ignores and fails to address current realities and pretends, as Mr. President asserts, ‘we are on the right direction’. On the contrary, the 2019 budget is built on very shaky foundation and makes very generous, often wild and untenable assumptions which pose significant risks to its implementation. It will be a disservice to the country if we ignore these fundamental flaws.

Several inaccurate claims litter the budget document – all, I think, in an attempt for Mr. President to whitewash the regime and hide their monumental failure to improve, even minimally, the welfare and living standards of much of the population. I see the rhetoric of ‘inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth’ as no more than an amplification of the APC-led government’s renewed propaganda to hoodwink the citizens into believing that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

Few of these claims by Mr. President are that ‘we have recorded several successes in economic management’, that ‘the economy has recovered from recession’, that ‘foreign capital inflows including direct and portfolio investments (have) responded to improved economic management and that ‘we have had a sustained accretion to foreign exchange reserves’ etc.

In reality, the economy is yet to recover from the 2016/2017 recession as it remains SEVERELY STRESSED, extremely fragile and vulnerable to external shocks. GDP growth declined from 2.11% in 2017 to 1.9% in Q1 and to 1.5% in Q2 of 2018. In Q3 of 2018 there was only a marginal increase of 0.3% to 1.8%.

In its current form, the local economy is not dynamic enough to journey to their so-called NEXTLEVEL. For the year 2019, a general slowdown in the real growth rates of economic activity in both the oil and non-oil sectors has been projected at 1.9% by the World Bank. This rate is well below the 2019 budget projection of 3.01% and is not enough to create the needed jobs for the growing population of the country or for the attainment of the SDGs.

As a sign of the weakness of the economy, the rate of unemployment has increased from 18.8% in 2017 to 23.1% in Q3 of 2018. Today, close to 20 million people are unemployed compared to 7.2 million people in 2014. These high rates of unemployment represent both a significant distortion in the economic system and a lost opportunity for critical national development and could potentially threaten social stability.

Sadly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is limited and is declining. In Q3, 2018 capital inflows were US$2.855.21 billion showing a decrease of 48.21% compared to Q2 2018 and 31.12% decrease compared to Q3 2017. Indeed, its current level is the lowest since Q2, 2017. Value of Foreign Portfolio recorded at US$1.7 billion represents a decrease of 58.2% compared to Q2 2018. It also represents a 37.7% decrease compared to the Q3 of 2017.

Finally, it is very significant to note that capital importation in 2014 (Q3) was US$6.5 billion and in 2018 (Q3) US$2.9 billion. This shows US$3.6 billion or 55% decline since the regime came into power.

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