By Emmanuel Ado
“A budget is telling your money where to go,instead of wondering where it went.”
Budget is a tool, and like all tools, the results are solely determined by the effective uses to which they are deployed, a critical factor if the objectives are to deliver on services. In the last six(6) years, Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State has proven the effectiveness of budget, to empower the people, to create the conducive environment to enable them achieve their full potentials, unlike in the past when the purpose(s) of budget were questioned, or at best regarded as an annual ritual, due to the failure of budgets to meet their expectations. A budget that doesn’t meet the yearnings of the people,address fundamental issues of governance, is a colossal failure and a huge betrayal of the mandate willingly entrusted by the people to elected representatives precisely for these reasons.
By making budgets work, El -Rufai has restored confidence in government and credibility in budgets as a veritable tool for positive change,especially as the several underlining issues; reform of the public service, the budgeting process, the implementation of IPSAS in the preparation and implementation of its budget, the subscription to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which demands transparency and accountability in the entire budgeting process, issues that once frontally addressed, significantly helped free much needed resources for capital projects.
Before El-Rufai’s coming in 2015, kaduna State budgets were typically 70% in favour of recurrent expenditure(consumption), as against an abysmal 30% for capital expenditure(development), a problem further compounded by the abysmal implementation of the miserable 30%, the result being the glaring infrastructuraldeficit, that made Kaduna State, the former regional headquarters of the Northern Region a nightmare, due to over a hundred years decay, which thankfully El-Rufai has devoted the last six(6) years to fundamentally address. Without doubt, El- Rufai rather than asking in vain, has earned the tremendous support of kaduna State citizens, through difficult policies like the teachers competence test, the unprecedented urban renewal programme, reform of the traditional institution, which political buccaneers had attempted to exploit during the 2019 elections, but to no avail.
Budget is about hard choices, and thankfully for Kaduna State, El-Rufai, is not the usual Nigerian politician, who typically over promises, in fact on outlandish scale, but delivers nothing, reasons why he could hold consumption “hostage” by instituting a vigorous reforms of the budgetary process and the continuous vote for capital expenditure as against recurrent expenditure.
By 2016, Kaduna State had a recurrent expenditure of N62 billion and a whopping N171.7 billion for capital expenditure a 36%: 64% recurrent to capital ratio. Very impressive, is that progressively the state continued implementing budgets that focuses on socio-economic development of its people,a trend that has continued from 2016 to date. The 2017 budget of N214billion had a N131.45 billion capital expenditure as against N83.46 billion recurrent expenditure, a 61:39% capital to recurrent expenditure ratio. By 2020 it had devoted N190 billion for capital expenditure and N67.87 billion on recurrent expenditure, an unprecedented capital to recurrent ratio of 73.7% :26.3%. Thus El-Rufai has consistently over the past 5 years, ensured that the people are at the center of his budget implementation.
It’s no boast, when El-Rufai asserts that the “Kaduna State government has recorded the highest levels of budget performance in the history of the state, injecting the largest ever capital investment in the history of the state. In 2019, Kaduna State achieved 97.5% budget performance for capital expenditure, spending N148.57bn of the N152.33bn budgeted. This is more than twice the erstwhile record of capital spending of over N62bn in 2016”, the results of his assertions are clearly obvious- from newly built multi-layer schools to the construction of roads,including the new bridge over river kaduna.
As in previous years, the objectives of the 2021 budget,remains the commitment to promote equality of opportunity, accelerate human capital development, attain fiscal viability, and reduce inequality,the eternal covenant that is encapsulated in the Putting People First Agenda and the subsequent prioritization of capital spending for key sectors like Education, Health and Infrastructure, which has been allocated 63% of the total budget. El-Rufai, like Joe Biden, share the same philosophy of “don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value”, which is largely responsible for the outcomes.
In spite of the achievements, El-Rufai, consistently shows that it’s not yet uhuru by the premium he continues to place on these key sectors that are the principal components of human capital development, and the huge investments in critical infrastructure for a state that is keen in maintaining its competitiveness, to support economic dynamism, with the ultimate goal of creating jobs,that will promote the well-being of the citizens of Kaduna State.
Towards achieving those objectives, in 2021 the state proposes to spend N59.59bn on Education (about 26% of the budget), N35.78bn or 15% on Health and N55.1bn or 23% on Infrastructure. A sum of N124bn, almost 79% of the capital budget of N157.56bn was allocated to the Economic and Social sectors, all in the bid to jump start the economy, devastated by the COVID-19. This definitely preserves the ability of the government to maintain theinvestment levels in Education and Health, while continuing its aggressive urban renewal projects.
Very commendable, is El-Rufai’s strong 2020/2021 legislative agenda,which leaves no one in doubt about themajor policy direction of his administration, as it seeks to consolidate the various reforms it embarked upon, andthe message therein that he is not in the mood to slow down…ultimately the benchmarks on which El-Rufai would be assessed.
It’s to the credit of the cerebral El-Rufai, that while other states are contemplating tax increases, that Kaduna State is embarking on tax waivers to assist businesses and households to be more liquid, so as to jump start the economy,that has been in comatose. Very critical is the State Social Protection Policy, under which the various social intervention programmmes will be domesticated,especially the Social Security net policy that will address the needs of the poor and vulnerable, an outcome of the COVID-19 experience. There is also the Chieftaincy and Traditional Councils Bill, designed to entrench the reforms of the chieftaincy system, specify composition and classification of emirate and traditional councils, and bring up to date the provisions of colonial laws. To facilitate job creation,which is dear to him, El-Rufai intends to establish a State Council of Economic Advisers that will guide government on job creation, economic development and investment promotion. There are many other issues that will occupy the Kaduna State House of Assembly,in the next year.
The budget, like every good budget,has something for every kaduna State citizen, because of the considerable input from a robust town hall engagement by almost everyone whose life will be impacted by the budget. Again for the sixth straight year, Kaduna State,will begin the new financial year on the first day of January, a development that has helped the state achieve full alignment of the calendar and fiscal years.