Extract from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2018 New Year address
“Our GDP rose to the level of 80 trillion yuan (12.3 trillion US dollars). Over 13 million urban and rural jobs were created. Our old-age insurance system now covers more than 900 million people, and 1.35 billion people are covered by basic medical insurance. More than 10 million rural residents were lifted out of poverty… 3.4 million people were relocated from poverty-stricken areas and now live in new warm housing. The construction of 6 million apartments in shanty areas has begun ahead of schedule… Our country’s great development has been achieved by the people, and its fruits should be shared by the people… The Party committees, governments, and officials at all levels must constantly hold in their hearts the interests and concerns of the people, and regard the benefit of the people as their highest career accomplishment. They must think for the people, respond to their needs, and work for the greater happiness of the people.”
I meant to write this article a long time ago. I mean since the beginning of this year. It was around the time that President Buhari read his budget speech. As we know, our own budget is hopefully going to be fully assented and put into play in the next few days – if nothing else untoward happens. If this is done, we would be lucky, as we are used to having this done by August each year. And in a few months, we would be told that the budget is being rounded up and ministries should return balances to the treasury. This is despite the fact that a major chunk of our budget is for the privileges of our high and mighty. Those closest to the booty in Nigeria, simply stretch their hands and grab the money. We have agonized over this for too long. Things will never change – except we get new revolutionary thinking into play. Meanwhile, another chunk of our budget disappears by way of corruption. A good decoy for corruption, as noted by none else but the World Bank, is through ‘infrastructure projects’. That is where large chunks of money can disappear. We have planned a lot of that. And even though the infrastructure we planned for are direly needed, the problem is the greed that has seized our system. Between corruption, and impunity plus hubris – a scenario where a few in government (especially politicians and those guys in the National Assembly), see nothing wrong with maxing out on illegal allowances and benefits while the nation goes to hell, Nigeria needs urgent rescue or else it crashes.
We should recall that China, USA, UK, and any country which takes itself serious already has its budget in play since the beginning of the year. In most serious countries, it is no longer a big issue to ensure that budgets work like clockwork. We could even look closer home. All around us are countries where their budgets are not a subject of controversies. Even Cameroun, Niger Republic, Chad, Benin, not to talk of South Africa, Algeria, Egypt Angola and other large and growing economies in Africa, don’t have our kind of unnecessary issues. You are what you do consistently. So, some of those countries if they are consistent in releasing their budgets early and planning for their people, may actually emerge faster than we do. That is why 2019 is very crucial for Nigeria. We must just change our ways.
Our budget process is very toxic and we haven’t been able to tame it. In spite of government’s promise to transit towards a zero-based budgeting regime, we are still stuck with the usual scenario where people sit in their offices and conjure all sorts of ‘pork barrel’ projects. Mr Segun Adeniyi, once wrote an article about how this works going by his experience working with President Yar’adua. The big men sit in their offices and get some memo from the budget office asking them to send in (usually what they intend to buy) in the coming year. Or what they want to build. Our ministries, departments and agencies, never cooperate. God forbid! Everyone is building an empire or at least a silos. And we have silos and empires, inside the already existing silos and empires. No one seas anyone. Any attempt to oversight any other person is met with stiff opposition. In fact it is a bloodspot of sorts. As against what happens in the USA (the global HQ of capitalism, democracy and federalism), whereby a single agency called the GOVERNMENT SERVICES AGENCY, undertakes procurement on behalf of all MDAs and from whom an agency of government requisitions whatever it needs based on justification, here, every MDA rushes to the market purchasing the same stuff, usually at madly different prices depending on the level of greed and carelessness of those involved. Eze Onyekpere has written copiously about this problem, including the illegal practice of inserting particular brands inside the budget and thereby foreclosing cheaper or better options. He has been roundly ignored.
To be continued.