Former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has declared that the best way for the country to come out of the present economic quagmire occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic is to reduce expenditure.
This is even as he declared that a 0.6% reduction in the 2020 budget by the Federal Government was no reduction but ‘only window dressing”.
The former Vice-President Atiku, who flew the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flag in the 2019 presidential election, stated these in a series of tweets, entitled, “Nigeria Cannot Afford Luxuries During an Austerity”, on his Twitter handle, @atiku, today.
According to Atiku, slashing the budget by a mere 0.6%, representing a reduction of only ₦71 billion, was grossly insufficient and betrayed the fact that, “we have lost touch with the current realities in the global political economy.”
Atiku submitted that when the 2020 budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a projection that Nigeria would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel, which he stated was no longer the case.
Atiku stated that the country’s production and the price of oil in the international market had been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that Nigeria had unsold vessels and its income had tanked by more than 50%.
“It is to my consternation that despite the crash in the price of oil, and the inability of Nigeria to expand our revenue base through the non-oil sector, the FG of Nigeria has only seen fit to slash our budget by a mere 0.6%. This represents a reduction of only ₦71 billion.
“Putting politics aside, this is grossly insufficient and betrays the fact we have lost touch with the current realities in the global political economy.
“For the avoidance of doubt, when this budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a projection that our nation would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel.
“Today that is no longer the case. Both our production, and the price of oil have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to the extent that we have unsold vessels, and our income has tanked by more than 50%.
“Given that this is the case, how can anyone justify a reduction in expenditure of just 0.6%? We cannot be the only nation bucking the trend?” Atiku twitted.
According to Atiku, Saudi Arabia, a nation with a much stronger production capacity than Nigeria’s and with a larger global market share, as well as “a foreign reserve that is 12 times ours, has slashed her budget by almost 30%”, same for other oil economies.
“Nigeria cannot make up for the loss of expected revenue by taking out more loans and issuing out more bonds.
“Debt will be the death of our economy, and bonds will put our people in bondage.
“The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure. And a 0.6% reduction is no reduction. It is only window dressing.”
Atiku, however, advised the government to put Nigerians first and realistically slash the budget.
The government, Atiku tweeted, has to reduce the billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice as well as let go the ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly.
Atiku added that the massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature have to be downsized. “My counsel to @NigeriaGov is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth.
“Realistically slash the budget. Every pork barrel has to go. The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced. The ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go.
“The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized.
“The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be abandoned.”
Atiku also advised that salaries of political appointees be reduced, while civil servants’ salaries should not be reduced.
The PDP stalwart, Atiku, tweeted that apart from budget slash, the country needs a budget realignment with a view to redirecting expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare.
“Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet. “Any budget slash that is less than 25% will not be in the interest of Nigeria.
“And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare.
“We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people. “These are the types of sacrifices that we need in a time of crisis. We do not need empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.
“In times of austerity, no nation, not the least a mono-product economy, such as ours, should be living in luxury at a leadership level.”