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Presidency, Senate fight over 2019 budget

***Trade blames over delayed passage
 
 
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has blamed the National Assembly for the delay in the presentation of the 2019 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari.
 
Senate immediately shot back at the Presidency; that it should not feed Nigerians with lies.
 
It was also a day FEC approved N7.13 billion for six companies, to protect six sections of the country’s waterways.
 
The Council had, during a special session presided over by Buhari, last Friday, approved the budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year.
 
Minister of Budget and Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who briefed State House Correspondents, alongside his Information and Culture counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and that of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed that the budget is ready for presentation and that Council is only waiting for the National Assembly to give it a date for the presentation.
 
“As you already know, the budget is ready. We are liaising with the National Assembly because they are to give us a date. If they say today, we will go. The budget is ready,” he reiterated.
 
But, a source in the office of the Senate President said it is wrong for the Executive arm of government to blame the Legislature, even when it was yet to communicate with it.
 
The source said the leadership could possibly not announce a date for presentation of the budget “since president Buhari is yet to “do the right thing.”
 
Senate Spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, was unreachable for comments as his known mobile lines were switched off when Daily Sun contacted him.
 
Similarly, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan, did not pick his calls for a reaction. He didn’t respond to a text message sent to his active mobile phone number, either. Regardless, FEC had, on October 24, approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019-2021; to provide template for the 2019 budget.
 
The session, which was presided over by Buhari, approved a budget of N8.73 trillion for 2019, N400 billion lower than that of 2018.
 
Last month, Udoma announced that the Federal Government is considering a leaner 2019 budget of N8.6 trillion, leaner than the N9.1 trillion approved by lawmakers for 2018.
 
He explained at a consultative forum on the MTEF and FSP that the decision was due to reduced government revenue projection for the year. Udoma also said government planned to cut down the level of borrowing from N1.6 trillion in 2018 to N1.5 trillion in 2019, while the deficit component would be reduced from N1.9 trillion in 2018 to N1.6 trillion.
 
In spite of the recent oil output drop to about 1.9 million barrels a day, Udoma said government was optimistic the 2.3 million barrels a day target was achievable with production now rising to about 2.15 million barrels a day and new oil productions being put into play.
 
Although a $50 per barrel oil price benchmark was proposed in the ERGP, the minister had expressed confidence that with a significant rise in the price above $80 per barrel currently, government has proposed a $60 per barrel oil price for the budget.
 
Udoma had added that N305 was proposed as exchange rate to the dollar, with government working to keep inflation down after slight increases in the last two months on the heels of 18 months consecutive decline.
 
The projected target Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for the budget was put at 3.01 per cent, reduced from 4.5 per cent in the ERGP; 3.6 per cent in 2020 and 3.9 per cent in 2021.
 
“Growth is expected to increase from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.1 per cent this year and 3.01 per cent in 2019 with the continued implementation of the ERGP in 2019 and improved outlook for oil prices,” he said.
 
On revenue, Udoma said based on the oil price and oil production assumptions, government expected to generate about N3.6 trillion from oil, up by about N500 billion from last year’s figure. With other projections showing government expects to collect less revenue from some independent sources, he said only about N624 billion is expected to be realised, against about N847 billion in the 2018 budget, among others.
 
On his part, Amaechi said the six contractors who got the protection of the waterways are formal companies and not rehabilitated militants.
 
Meanwhile, Udoma said he reported to Council on the steady recovery from the recession.
 
He said: “The report indicates that the economy when measured by real GDP grew at 1.81 percent in the third quarter 2018, compared to 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2018, the FEC was particularly encouraged to note that economic growth continues to be driven by the non oil sector.”
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