Why we increased fiscal deficit by N53bn – Reps

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Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Mustapha Dawaki, Tuesday, disclosed that the fiscal deficit encapsulated in the 2019 Money bill was increased by N53 billion (or 1.3%) in order to accommodate critical expenditures.

The newly introduced ‘special intervention’ subheads captured by the House and Senate through resolution include: N24.6 billion for severance benefits for the outgoing lawmakers and legislative aides, furniture allowances, as well as induction and inauguration of the 9th Assembly.

In addition, the sum of N10 billion was provided for security agencies to tackle the insecurity in Zamfara state, N3 billion for additional salaries of legislative aides not provided for in the previous appropriations, among others.

While giving highlights of other components of the N8.907 trillion approved for the 2019 fiscal year,
Dawaki (APC-Kano) explained that the the sum of N500 billion for Special Intervention programme under the Service Wide Vote and additional sum of N100 billion for special intervention programme proposed by the Executive for under capital supplementation as well as $60 crude oil price N305/$ exchange rate and 2.3mbpd oil benchmark were retained.

He also noted that the $60 oil price was retained considering the volatility of the oil at the international market and, argued that the country will have buffer to contain any eventual crash in the oil price.

The 2019 Appropriation bill was increased from N8.827 trillion to N8.917 trillion showing an increase of N90,327,519,458.

The clause-by-clsuse consideration and adoption of the report carried out at the Committee of Supply chaired by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

Dawaki who gave the breakdown of the budget during a press briefing held in Abuja, said: “This is because there are so many outstanding items not captured in the proposal. For instance, there was a Senate resolution for special intervention of N10 billion in Zamfara due to the crisis that occurred there.

“Also not captured but equally critical was the severance benefits of outgoing legislators and their aides.

“This severance packages always occurred once in four years, in the transition years and this amounted to N24.6 billion, N3 billion was also included in the budget for the payment of allowances arrears of legislative aides, it was not also captured initially.

“We also provided additional funds for security agencies across board because we believed that more funds would improve the discharge of their responsibilities.

“All these were captured under Capital Supplementation from Service Wide vote”.

On why the passage of the bill is coming this late in the year since the N8,826,636,578,915 proposal was transmitted to the National Assembly on 18 December, 2018, the lawmaker said Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should be blamed as they refused to turn up for budget defense and presentation session.

He assured that the clean copy of the harmonised appropriation bill will be transmitted to President Muhammad Buhari tomorrow for assent.

According to him, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been directed to roll over 40% o their capital expenditure, adding that the Executive has the responsibility to revert back to the National Assembly if there’s any shortfall in the realization of the revenue projection.