Senate passes N4.69trn 2014 budget

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ABUJA – The Senate on Wednesday passed the 2014 Appropriation Bill of N4.695 trillion.

The approved budget is N53 billion more than the estimate presented by the executive to the National Assembly (NASS).

President Jonathan on Dec. 19, 2013, through the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, presented a budget of N4.642 trillion to NASS.

The Senate approved the budget after considering the reports of the Ahmad Maccido-led  committee on Appropriation  and the Ahmed Makarfi-led committee on Finance.

The budget, tagged, “Budget of Fiscal Consolidation and Inclusive Growth’’, was based on a benchmark of 77 Dollars per barrel of crude and production of 2.39 million barrels per day.

The budget is also predicated on a GDP growth rate of 6.75 per cent, inflation rate of 9.5 per cent and an exchange rate of N160 to one Dollar.

Leading the debate on the budget, Maccido (Sokoto-PDP) decried the appalling state of budget implementation in the country, saying it was a worrisome recurring decimal for the economy.

“Unspent funds that are rolled over into the economy only make a mockery of development which is a dire necessity across the nation. Government must be seen to be taking steps to improve on this,” he said.

The Senate Appropriation Committee also said that the 2014-2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper on which the 2014 budget was based required refining and retooling in procedure and process.

He said the drop in production volume as reflected in the budget stop images of the past two years remained a disturbing phenomenon.

“The obvious reason has been traced to the obstruction to production as a result of pipeline vandalism and crude theft,” said Maccido.

He maintained that the budget, which was described as one of job creation and inclusive  growth, deserved to urgently rise to the occasion to defend itself in view of the yawning gap between created and the of the unemployed.

The highlights of the approved budget are  statutory transfer, N408.6 billion; debt service, N712 billion; recurrent expenditure, N2.4 trillion, and capital expenditure, N1.1 trillion.

The Senate President, David Mark, who presided over plenary, commended the committees for a job well done, adding that it was a tedious job.

Mark appealed to the executive to follow in the footsteps of the legislature and ensure optimal implementation of the budget.

“Whilst we have done so much to pass it, I hope that the executive will equally work as hard to implement it,” he said.

The highest sectoral allocation in the budget is Education with N424.3 billion, while  Defence follows with an allocation of N349.7 billion.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) also recalls that the 2013 budget was N4.987 trillion,  a sum that is  N308 billion more than the current budget. (NAN)