In-Depth: How Senate grilled Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, over 2017 budget implementation

The Senate on Tuesday disagreed with the Federal Government over plans to release an insignificant fraction of the N2.177 trillion capital vote in the 2017 budget.

This followed a revelation by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, that the government could only release N440 billion out of the total amount.

Adeosun, who was joined by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, told the senators during an interactive session that the government lacked adequate funding for the budget.

The ministers said government intends to release over N100 billion this week, in addition to the N310 billion earlier released in the 2017 budget.

According to the ministers, it would be extremely difficult for the government to meet obligations in capital budget, pointing out that there was N2.3 trillion deficit in the 2017 capital budget.

Adeosun said the 2017 budget was projected mainly on external borrowing, adding that making further capital releases would depend on how fast the government could push the borrowing process.

She informed the lawmakers that domestic borrowing would not be enough to fund the gaps in the budget, stressing that the cost of domestic borrowing was getting too high.

She said borrowing from foreign sources was far cheaper than domestic borrowing.

She said even if the funds were to be available, government cannot release the entire N2.177 trillion capital vote within the three months left in the year.

Consequently, the ministers said about 60 percent of the 2017 capital budget would be rolled over to the 2018 budget, just as that of 2016 was similarly rolled over till May this year.

Worried by the huge gap in the capital budget and the actual amount to be released, the senators warned that the trend could cause serious injury to the economy.

The senators drew a parallel between Nigeria and Brazil in the handling of economic recession in the two countries.

The Brazilian economy had suffered recession for eight consecutive quarters but came out of it with 2.46 inflation rate and 10 percent misery rate.

The lawmakers had challenged the two ministers to explain why the Nigerian economy, which suffered recession for five consecutive quarters would come out with 16.5 percent inflation rate and over 50 percent misery rate.

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