2016 Budget In Focus: The Economic Sense Of Completing Old Projects Before Embarking On New Ones

I have noticed one thing that makes change agents and leaders stand out in the society. It is their desire to learn and willingness to be inspired by their learning to change what appears an impossible task.

A budget is the annual statement of the expenditure and revenue of the government along with the laws and regulations that approve and support those expenditure and revenue. Put in another way, public budget is an itemized estimate of expected revenues and expenditures of the government for the year.

Poverty is multi-dimensional including economic, social, political, cultural, and geographical. Nevertheless, we define it as the inability of individuals or households to access adequate income or consumption to satisfy their basic needs such as food, clothing, water and sanitation, health care, education, and transportation. You may ask, why did I mention poverty? It is because the budget has the capacity to make the society poor once it is not effectively put to use. There is organic link between the budget and either the prosperity or poverty of the people.

The basic aim of development is to encourage sustained economic growth and structural change in the economy. Growth as it affects output and employment generation. Structural change in terms of composition of output, structure of employment by sectors, reduction in poverty and inequality and participation by all in the growth process.

Despite the fact that poverty is multi-dimensional, government through its fiscal policy can focus on certain sectors of the economy that have the highest potential to stimulate growth and ensure adequate linkages with the rest of the sectors. This will ensure structural changes that can positively impact on output, employment and distribution of benefits of growth.

Nigerians are less aware that the decisions the leaders make in the comfort of their offices affect their economic position. There is need for citizens to improve their economic literacy and be in a position to know when the governments are doing what the budget says and when they (Governments) are taking personal decisions as the expense of public resources.

Suffice it to say that the whole processes of budgeting in the Southeastern States like many other states of the federation is shrouded in secrecy, thereby shutting the people out from contributing/participating in the budget processes and this is against the principles of democracy.

Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo make up the southeast geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The population of the region is estimated at 18.9 million people (National Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The region’s population is predominantly Christians, and members of the Igbo ethnic group, who make up approximately 18% of the national population are concentrated in this area (Pew Forum, 2010).

Two states in the region are significant producers of crude oil and natural gas (Imo and Abia States) and as well share similarities of a petrol industry political economy. Across a range of industrialization, the southeast has the least numbers of publicly quoted companies in Nigeria. Over all, the southeast economy is more informal and employs less graduates than other regions (NWAV, 2014). Unfortunately, this region of all the intellectuals is most under-developed in all ramifications because the spate of abandoned projects is high, given that the budget too is not openly accessed.

In the words of the Executive Director of Citizens Center for Integrated Development and Social Rights, CCIDESOR, Emeka Ononamadu, ‘that government without citizens participation is private business at public expense’. Once the citizens have developed the capacity and literacy to monitor the budget, they can properly evaluate the way the elected representatives manage public resources. This evaluation will enable them to follow up projects because they have access to the budget and can understand the contents and know when a project is said to be completed.

The absence of the budget in most states, especially in the southeast has organic link with the growing poverty in the country. Except the federal government whose budget is in the public domain, one can hardly find any budget in the south eastern states, either in hard or soft copy. By the time some of the budgets are seen, the year would have gone and expenditures done with.

Publishing the budget immediately will also help investors, local and foreign, take prompt business decisions. Unfortunately, what we have when budgets are presented is budget speech which does not give details of income and expenditure for the year.

The economic sense of completing old projects before embarking on new ones is manifold especially that when they are completed with quality, the services they are meant to provide will still be available.

Thanks to the SACE project around Health and Education in Imo State, a major state in the southeast zone. It is major because Imo state which is located at the center of the zone, has 27 local government areas and has one of the highest population.

The Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement, SACE project in Imo State with support from United States Agency for International Development, USAID and Partnership Initiative for NigerDelta Development, PIND, had about 121 capital projects mapped by 129 partners across six local governments of Obowo, Ahiazu Mbaise, Isiala Mbano, Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta and Ngor Okpala spanning through the three senatorial zones of the State around Health and Education.

The project line was taken from 2010-2014, where about 121 capital projects were mapped. Out of the 121 capital projects, 32 were completed without quality, 51 projects were ongoing/uncompleted, while 34 projects were abandoned. 4 projects were not identified nor started.

The SACE project being coordinated by Emeka Ononamadu of CCIDESOR has helped in bringing some abandoned projects to completion. The project has continued to call on governments to ensure that old projects are completed before new ones are started. This will stop the era of waste, fraud and abuse of public resources by leaders.

Completing old projects by building them up in the 2016 budget will stop the use of more lands that could be used in agricultural purposes, since when they are completed, they will serve the purposes for which they were started in the first place. Any government that does this, would have scored a political capital goal that generation next to come will remember. The southeast region is the lowest in terms of public spending since their annual budget has been the lowest among all the six regions in Nigeria. This means that if the spate of abandoned projects continues, the region will suffer, especially Imo State more economic hardship.

Once the old projects are completed with quality, leaders will be free from the chains of shame, unnecessary anxiety and unjust actions. The essence of political leadership which is provision of security, peace, development, welfare, and happiness of the people would have been achieved. It attracts people’s confidence and admiration to leaders.

Completion of projects will serve as a stepping-stone to raising or getting more funds from sources: government, donors, the masses, voluntary donations, and others. The unemployment ravaging the country would have been fought. No society can be said to be thriving whose budget are not open and accessible as the old projects are not completed.

There is need for sincerity to be restored to the corridors of power in line with accountability, transparency and good governance on the part of our leaders. This can be done once every effort of government, especially in this 2016 budgeting is geared towards the completion of old projects before embarking on new ones.

The government should also be grateful to CSOs who provide information on how it can operate a transparent system. The CSOs should not be seen as opposition or being confrontational. The government should begin to see the non-state actors/change agents as partners in progress who proffer insights on how government should run. This is because both the CSOs and the leaders are part of the country and want to see a better Nigeria. The government should engage the CSOs experts on budget and implementation for its own gains of political capital and integrity capital. Am done…

Chigozie Uzosike (JP), Development Journalist writes from Owerri, 07037723606

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Articles by Chigozie Uzosike