The Senate on Wednesday passed the 2014 budget totalling N4.695tr, an amount which is N52.2bn higher than the N4.642trl which was submitted by President Goodluck Jonathan to the National Assembly on December 19, 2013, through the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The upper chamber at its plenary presided over by the Senate President, David Mark, approved the budget following the clause by clause consideration of the document at the committee of supply which lasted about one and half hours.
Highlights of the 2014 budget as approved by the senate are, Statutory Transfers (N408,687,801,891), Debts Service (N712,000,000,000), Recurrent Expenditure (N2,454,887,566,702), Capital Expenditure (N1,119,614,631,407) while the Aggregate Expenditure is N4,695,190,000,000.
Mark commended his colleagues for the timely consideration of the budget of the Ministries, departments and agencies of government at their various committee levels.
He therefore appealed to the executive arm of the government to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the budget.
The Senate had earlier debated the general principles of the bill and read it the second time on 23rd January, 2014 and consequently referred it to the Committees on Appropriations and Finance for further legislative action.
The Executive proposal submitted by Jonathan was N4,642,960,000,000 which included, N399,687,801,891( statutory transfers) N712,000,000,000 ( debt service), N2,430,665,361,597 (recurrent, non-debt expenditure) while the balance of N1,100,606,836,512 is for contribution to the development fund for capital expenditure.
The Committee subsequently referred the schedules of the bill to the appropriate Standing Committees on money bills in line with Order 92(4) (a) of the Senate Standing Order.
The Committee drew up a work plan which gave Standing Committees a timeline within which to submit their reports.
This was extended to the end of March, 2014 to conclude engagement with Ministries/Departments/Agencies and report back to the Committee.
A total of 51 Committees submitted reports and defended same before the Committee.
There is also a Subsidy Reinvestment Programme component of the budget to the tune of N268,370,000,000 for the year 2014, which did not form part of the aggregate budget figure of N4.6429 trl but however captured in the final compilation of the bill.
Presenting his lead debate on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Senator Ahmad Maccido, explained that in preparing the details of the bill, his committee adopted a benchmark price of $77.50 per barrel of crude oil, a crude oil production of 2.38m barrels per day and an exchange rate of N160 to $1.
Maccido said his committee observed that the 2014-2016 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, upon which the 2014 budget was based, just like the previous editions, will require being refined and retooled both in procedure and process.
He noted that a major issue was in the planning required and the engagement processes with all stakeholders which will have added effective value to the budget process, with obvious multiplier effect on the economy.
He also said that the drop in oil production volume as reflected in the budget estimates of the past two years remained a disturbing phenomenon.
He said the obvious reason was traced to the obstruction to oil production as a result of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.
He described the appalling state of budget implementation in the country as still a worrying recurring decimal for the economy.
For instance, he said the unspent funds that were being rolled over into the economy only make a mockery of development which is a dire necessity across the nation and that the government must be seen to be taking steps to improve it.
He said the 2014 budget, which is described as one of job creation and inclusive growth, deserves to urgently rise to the occasion to defend itself, in view of the yawning gap between employment created and the army of the unemployed.