Traction Remains Elusive Despite ‘Change’ Promise

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After two years of shadow boxing, the situation on ground in Africa’s largest economy shows that much needs to be done in the area of turning around the economy so as to diversify it, create jobs and make life more meaningful for Nigerians, Sunday independent interactions with stakeholders reveal.

However, expectations are high that massive investment in infrastructure from the N7.44 trillion 2017 budget within the remaining six months of the year will be the elixir for achievement of the promised change.

President Muhammadu Buhari who came to power in 2015 with the promise to turn the economy around, put an end to corruption and insurgency had in the last two years embarked on measures including request for emergency powers and foreign loans to deal decisively with the economic slump threatening his political career, has the opportunity of utilising the 12 months budget for the remaining six months to kick-start growth and increase investor confidence in Nigeria, The New Diplomat had gathered from analysts.

Pascal Odibo, Group Country Director, Jeff and O’Brien, wants to see a sense of urgency in the implementation of the budget within the next six months.

According to Odibo, who spoke on Channels Television last week, the short time for the implementation of the full year budget has provided opportunity for the government to deliver on its promises to the people.

“The budget provides opportunity to the APC led government to deliver the promised change, through the instrumentality of economics,” he said.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo said last week that government would revert to the calendar circle of January to December in the budget execution, adding that the 2018 budget process had started.

The macro fundamentals of Nigeria appeared shaky even from afar, and even Buhari acknowledged it, but had continued to struggle with his promises and in most cases delivered a stark opposite of his promise.

For instance, he promised to fight poverty, yet under his watch Nigerians have grown poorer since a transition to democracy in 1999.

Average income in Nigeria contracted for the first time in seven years in 2015, and fell further in the first nine months of 2016, pushing many households deeper into poverty.

Besides, the country’s debt and unemployment rates ballooning with some analyst raising the alarm that
the ugly trend if not arrested, are capable of suffocating the citizens and businesses,
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report revealed that 5.5 million Nigerians have become unemployed in the last two years. According to NBS, 351,015 Nigerians became unemployed in the last quarter of 2016, bringing the total number of unemployed and underemployed persons to 28.58 million.

As at August 2016, 4.58 million Nigerians had become unemployed since the inception of this administration. That figure increased in the third quarter of 2016 to 5,134,913 as unemployment rate spiked to 13.9 percent, the report added.

“In Q4 2016, the labour force population (i.e. those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 81.15 million from 80.67 million in Q3 2016,representing an increase of 0.6% in the labour force during the quarter”.

“This means about 482,689 persons from the economically active population entered the labour force during the quarter.
“During the reference period, the number of unemployed in the labour force, increased by 351,015 persons, resulting in an increase in the national unemployment rate to 14.2% in Q4 2016, slightly up from 13.9% in Q3,13.3% in Q2, 12.1% in Q1 2016,and 10.4% in Q4 2015″.

The Buhari administration promised to create millions of job in 2016, but NBS figures show that the jobs created could not match the fresh entrants of the labour market.”

Friday Ameh, an energy analyst believes that as frightening as the figures could be, the short period for the execution of this year’s budget would make a difference provided it is judiciously and effectively implemented.

The New Diplomat gathered from a source at the presidency that for the first time in the history of the country, the Federal Government was able to back its capital expenditure with total cash release of about N1.2trillion out of the N1.6 trillion for the 2016 budget.

“With the relative stability in oil price and the return of normalcy in Niger Delta, I am sure government will do better this year,” Ameh added.

Previous governments had always managed to meet up recurrent expenditure demands by 100 percent but struggled to back up capital expenditure provisions with cash, resulting in a build up of abandoned projects across the country.

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