Wednesday, November 23, 2016 8:13 pm
The Senate on Wednesday described the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper presented to the Upper Chamber by the Presidency as “unrealistic”
President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, who presided over plenary, said that the projections in the MTEF were assumptions and estimates that were produced to the best knowledge and capacity of the executive.
“No doubt that some of these assumptions are not realistic.
“The exchange rate is not realistic. There is no doubt that throughout this year we have not achieved 2.2 million barrels of oil even in time of peace. We have not achieved 2.5 million recently how realistic will 2.2 million be in next year,’’ Saraki said.
He added that the oil price looked as if it was “a bit conservative’’.
“Our responsibility is to work on it and use our own capacity to do the right thing. If it means that we have to re-write, look at it again and do what is right, that is our responsibility.
“That is the way to go than to just take a document from the executive and assume that because we have taken it we are going to return it the same thing as it came,’’ Saraki said.
He called on his colleagues to debate on the performance of the 2016 Budget now that they had gone on oversight before debating on the MTEF report.
“This must be a precondition,’’ Saraki emphasised.
Contributing, Sen. Stella Odua (PDP-Anambra) said that the MTEF was a very fundamental document in the sense that it was the basis upon which the budget was going to stand.
“If we are standing the budget on a foundation that clearly has wrong indicators, wrong figures, how do we accomplish that?
“It means that we are set already to fail. How do you intend to have an increase in Customs collection, company income tax and value added tax?”
According to Oduah, companies are not working and are shut down while businesses are not running.
“People are not importing and even exporting how will they generate the revenue?’’ Oduah asked.
“Agriculture in my area. We had zero production this year. Cassava used to be staple food. Cassava used to be N5,000 for 50kg bag; it is now N18,000.’’
She said that the way out was to assume that the report was “wrongly done and probably had typographical errors on some of the numbers’’.
“The budget must be a purpose and I believe the objective is to impact positively on Nigerians.
`The executive and the legislatiure must sit down as a team and be practical and do something that will impact positively on Nigerians,’’ Oduah said.
Similarly, Sen. Bayero Nafada (APC-Gombe) said that the essence of the document was a guide on how to prepare the 2017 budget.
“If you didn’t get this one correct, definitely you will not get the 2017 budget correct. That is the implication.
“We should look at the MTEF and see where there are problems; we are not saying that everything there is not correct.
“We should point out where there are mistakes. By pointing out where there are mistakes I think we are not doing bad to the government rather we are assisting the government.
“The exchange rate of N290 per dollar. It was only on Tuesday that the governor of Central Bank said that the official rate is N305.
“Now it is coming to the National Assembly it is N290. It is not realistic at all; this problem will create a deficit in the budget,’’ Nafada said.
On his part, Sen. Kabiru Gaya (Kano-APC) noted that the 2016 budget was mainly a budget of non-oil revenue fiscal policy thrust.
“The government should improve itself on non-oil production facilities or revenue, for example agriculture.
“Most Nigerians have gone to farm and the government is encouraging farmers,’’ he said.
The senator, however, urged the government to improve on agricultural facilities through loans to enable farmers improve on agriculture which would increase Nigeria’s revenue earnings.
Earlier, the Senate Leader, Bala Na’Allah, while reading the 2017-2019 MTEF report said that it was a statutory document which articulated government’s revenue and spending plan as well as its fiscal policy objective over the period.
“It is a three-year planning tool that defines government’s economic, social and development objectives and priorities.
“The Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Fiscal Strategy Paper is the assumptions underlying projections of oil and non-oil revenue in 2017.
“It is proposing a budget that will be predicated on an oil revenue benchmark of 42.5 dollars per barrel for the period 2017 to 2019.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate had referred the request of President Muhammadu Buhari to three committees of Appropriation, Finance and National Planning for the approval of the MTEF report. (NAN)