We have to preface this piece with some clarifications on what a budget signifies in any given economy. In a nutshell, a budget is an expression of government financial role in the growth process of an economy. It is the most comprehensive financial document used within a given year to plan, co-ordinate and manage the economy. The budget addresses operational efficiency and performance indices of government on the basis of fiscal targets, formulated expenditure policies and strategic allocation of resources.
A state or public sector budget can be better appreciated as a portent short term economic planning instrument used to lay the background for the achievements of projected medium and long terms economic development goals. A public sector budget is also a tool for accountability and transparency in government revenue receipts and expenditure within a specified time period usually one year. Apparently, our local economy in Cross River State is largely bedeviled by an appalling misery index and failed infrastructure. It goes without saying therefore that with the inherent multiplying socio-economic contradictions stirring so starkly in our faces, a well articulated budget could form the framework to foster growth and development in the local economy going forward.
In our clime, before the end of every 12 calendar months, there is always the heightened expectation of annual budget presentation for the subsequent fiscal year to the parliament for consideration, approval and passage into law. In legislative parlance, the budget is a legal framework within which the government appropriate resources to enhance the growth and development of the economy. The budget as a fundamental money bill is also known as the annual Appropriation Act when passed into law by the parliament which is governed by the constitution and other extant laws.
For us in Cross River State, it has inadvertently become a yearly ritual of some sort for Gov Benedict Ayade to brandish a series of alluring plans that stirs the hope of an average Cross Riverian for a better standard of living and improved economic condition. Sadly, more than a large chunk, perhaps over 95% of these plans has often remained in the realm of unfulfilled, fanciful and flowery promises with the local economic indices getting rather dangerously adrift.
Our recent history has shown that the Cross River State budgeting system under Gov Benedict Ayade is built on quicksand with a self inflicted burden of perennial lack of appreciable implementation. It should be noted that Gov Benedict Ayade had his full scale fiscal year in 2016 where he announced a budget of N350B which he christened, “Budget of Deep Vision.” In the subsequent year (i.e. 2017), the Governor backtracked a bit by announcing a budget of N301B tagged, “Budget of Infinite Transposition”. However, a N700B expenditure framework was announced in the said year to run for three years upfront to 2019 on the back of the State's Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
When Cross Riverians thought they have had enough of outrageous budget estimates without commensurate developmental strides, His
Excellency, Senator (Prof) Benedict Ayade appeared like a bolt from the blue with another shocker. On Thursday 30th November, 2017 he stood in the hollowed chamber of the State House of Assembly and announced a mindboggling expansive budget of N1.3Trillion tagged, “Budget of Kinetic Crystallization” for the 2018 fiscal year. As expected, he made the headlines as the first governor in Nigeria's budgetary history to hit the N1Trillion mark in budget estimates. Not even Lagos State adjudged as the sixth largest economy in Africa with a robust economic base could ever make such headlines at this time ahead of Cross River with very weak and almost nonexistent local economic structure. What a paradox! “Wonders”, they say, “shall never end”.
Apparently, the State runs the traditional incremental budget template but the questions economic and financial pundits find extremely galling are: What is the rationale behind Governor Ayade's unprecedented and humongous increase in the state's budget estimates? Has the World Bank opened its vault to Senator Benedict Ayade without the knowledge of Cross Riverians? Could it be a mere obsession for figures or an inordinate knack for media hype on the situation of our badly stressed local economy? How does he arrive at his projections and forecasts? How well has he performed with respect to percentage implementation of the last two budgets? These are some salient questions that beg for answers and they are not farfetched judging from the well known dire financial strait of the state and the rudimentary level of our economy in spite of the bogus budget estimates we have seen in the last two years.
* To be continued