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Thursday, 28 November 2019

ANALYZING IHEDIOHA'S REBUILD IMO BUDGET 2020

By Collins Opurozor

There still exists among Nigerians a limited understanding of what the annual governmental ritual known as budget means to their lives. Of all the subjects in politics, budget seems to be the least discussed in the streets of Nigeria. In the mass media as well, budget is scarcely given the attention it deserves. It is the instrument for collective wellbeing. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that embodies the hopes and aspirations of the people and espouses a readiness to meet them if not the budget.

In advanced democracies, civil society groups take it upon themselves to influence the budgetary processes so as to realize their vision for the society. They track budget implementation and evaluate the outcomes. This is a practical way of ensuring that service delivery gets to the target group, and at the same time diminishing the possibilities for abuse of public trust.

The Governor of Imo State, the Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, has presented his very first appropriation bill (budget) to the Imo State House of Assembly. He has proposed a total sum of N197.6 billion as the Rebuild Imo Budget One - 2020. It is important we dissect the various components of that budget and understand the possibilities it holds for Imo and her people.

MACRO-ECONOMIC FACTORS AND THE FEASIBILITY OF A VIABLE IMO

One very significant leap which the Ihedioha administration has made is in the area of restoring investor confidence in the Imo economy. Beyond the fact that Imo's shares of the FAAC, JAAC, Derivation and VAT are shaped by external conditions, it is exhilarating to note that the IGR profile of the state has moved from N25.6 billion of 2019 to N36.5 billion. This is an index of economic recovery, sound policy framework and increased viability. The implementation of the TSA has plugged revenue leakages and reduced the incidence of double taxation to zero, so that while the public coffers are not marginalized, businesses at the same time find a favourable climate in Imo state.

PERSONNEL COSTS AND EFFICIENCY OF IMO BUREAUCRACY

Another crucial area in the budget that requires attention is the reduction of the personnel costs from the  humongous N15.3 billion of 2019 to N8.9 billion. What this means is that the civil service in Imo has been sanitized and gotten rid of the menace of ghost workers that had been a millstone around the neck of Imo state. It also reveals the looting that had festered in Imo under Okorocha in the name of wage bills. The Government therefore should be commended on this. Essentially, the biometric verification system of clock-in, clock-out that has been implemented in the local government system should also be extended to all ministries, departments, agencies and parastatals.

GRAPPLING WITH IMO'S STAGGERING DEBT PROFILE

In the last fiscal year, Imo's internal loans stood at a total of N50 billion. This has been lowered to N18.9 billion. With revenues accounting for about 71% of the budget, Imo has increased its generative capacity and instituted a regime of fiscal discipline.

ASSOCIATED INFRASTRUCTURE

With the lowering of the cost for the admin services sector from N58 billion to N21 billion, more resources have been funnelled into providing infrastructure that will rev up the growth of the economy. This is in line with the vision of the Ihedioha administration to make Imo one of the top three state economies in Nigeria. This is why the Ministry of Works gets N41 billion. To be sure, the summary of the economic backwardness of Imo state is the absence of associated infrastructure. The budget has revealed the commitment of the Government to rebuild Imo infrastructurally so as to accentuate economic development.

EXPENDITURE PATTERN AND IMPLICATIONS

With N106 billion proposed for capital projects and N91 billion for recurrent expenditure, it is evident that the Government has a deep-rooted passion for building enduring legacies. For one thing, the lowering of the recurrent expenditure implies a deliberate policy of curtailing waste through  the right-sizing of the bureaucracy, a fight against corruption, slashing of over-bloated overheads and zero tolerance for a plethora of idle appointees.

In conclusion, the 2020 budget is obviously in sync with the expectations Imo people who were bruised by the immediate past administration and who yearn in unison for a better life. The priorities of the budget will drive development and lift the vast majority of the people off poverty.

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