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Low Implementation of Capital Budget Ruffles Lawmakers

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  • Low Implementation of Capital Budget Ruffles Lawmakers

The low implementation of the capital component of the 2017 N7.441 trillion by the federal government is currently causing major unease among federal lawmakers amid fears that it may affect their bid for re-election into the National Assembly in the 2019 polls.

The constituency projects, also called zonal intervention projects, are contained in the N2.1 trillion capital component of the 2017 budget, out of which only N440 billion has been released.

The low release of funds has ensured that only high priority capital projects are currently receiving the attention of the government, causing a complete neglect of the constituency projects for which N100 billion was appropriated.

Investigation gathered that the executive has not released a kobo for any item listed under the constituency projects, even though some of the items have been listed in procurement adverts by several Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.

The lawmakers are further ruffled by the recent push of the executive arm of government to restore the fiscal year from January to December to allow for an organic budget calendar, as this may further affect the performance of the 2017 budget.

While they generally accept that a predictable budget calendar ensures better economic planning particularly for the organised private sector which is dependent on public spending, the lawmakers fear that the proposal to roll over up to 60 per cent of capital projects would further affect the constituency projects.

At a recent hearing by the Senate on the performance of the 2017 budget, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma had told the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Finance that MDAs have been instructed to roll over most of their capital projects, to the 2018 budget.

Investigation gathered that the lawmakers are highly concerned about the impact this would have on their re-election bid in the 2019 general elections.

A highly placed source said the decision to isolate the constituency project items under the N100 billion Zonal Intervention Funds, in a separate section from the statutory budget of the MDAs, was deliberate.

“Even if this has happened before now, the executive deliberately did it this time around because for them it is not priority. Despite any detente, the executive still considers the constituency projects a ploy to make money by the lawmakers. Remember the tensions caused by the constituency issue last year, at some point House members even said they would not entertain any request from the executive, until ZIFs (Zonal Intervention Funds) are released,” the source explain.

“2018 is just a few months away, and that is campaign year. 2019 is just the election year. If the projects are not done, it would affect the lawmakers. Many have promised their constituents that they would implement certain projects, and when such is not on ground during campaigns, they would not be able to point to what they have done, and why they should be re-elected,” the source said.

“The 2016 capital budget, N1.7 trillion was not fully implemented. Also, just about 80 per cent of the 2016 ZIF was released after intense negotiations. Obviously lawmakers who could not finish their constituency projects from that budget, would be relying on the current budget, and must have assured their people. Now no funds are being released under the 2017 budget, and it is obviously not a priority to the executive,” the source explained further.

The source disclosed that about 50 per cent of the ZIF could be released, but added that it would be hard for the lawmakers to get anymore than that in the current budget.

“It is not for nothing that the executive repeatedly says it is concentrating on priority projects, and these priority projects are in all the zones anyway,” the source said.
Lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives who spoke off record expressed their displeasure at the development.

“We are the closest to our people, hence these projects. We promised our people, if we do not fulfill our promises, why would they re-elect us? Our constituents just want to see the boreholes, the primary health care centres, among others they would not understand the struggle here,” a lawmaker said.

Another lawmaker said it would be unfair to expect them to use their personal allowances for the constituency projects.

“Even our salaries are being delayed under this dispensation, and we get nothing extra. We cannot expend that on our constituencies. Admittedly, some of our colleagues use their personal funds for some things back home, particularly in places where the competition is stiffer. If you want to return, you cannot wait until the ZIF is released before fulfilling some of the promises to the constituents,” he said.

A House member further said that the hearing at the Senate was ‘closely monitored’ by the members of the green chambers who were happy with the resolutions.

“The resolution cautioned against selective implementation of the capital budget, which is where our projects are. That is our way of demanding of the implementation of the ZIF items” he said.

Reacting to the development, the Deputy Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ben Murray Bruce expressed hope that the constituency projects would be funded, as they benefit the people more, not the lawmakers.

Speaking in a telephone interview, Ben Bruce said the project is for the people who get angry when they are not implemented as promised by “If you promised a link road that costs N20 million, and you do not have the link road, then people would be angry. If you promise a borehole because people have dirty water and they have monkeypox, because of the dirty water and dirty environment, and you cannot provide clean water, then they would be angry, because they put you into office and you cannot provide them clean water.”

“In a place like Bayelsa state which is riverine, no toilets anywhere, people use the bathroom (ease themselves in the waters) and drink it at the same time, are you surprised there is monkey pox? So something as simple as water, which does not benefit the senator or the House of Representatives, it benefits the poor man who needs clean water, and then you do not deliver, first you have sick people, you have an epidemic, you have angry people, people who cannot understand that in a modern economy, some people do not have clean water to drink, who do you blame?”

“Last year, my constituency project was providing solar power, so children can do their homework at night. This year, its agriculture (fish, corn, rice) , people have to feed. If I do these, how would that have a negative impact on the economy, and why would the government not fund such projects? None of the projects benefit me, they benefit the people who voted me into office. So constituency project is not a bad word, not a bad thing to do and i am glad we have it in the budget. I hope they fund it,” the Senator said.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

Nigeria Aims for N2 Trillion Annual Revenue from Marine and Blue Economy by 2027

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NIMASA

Nigeria has set an ambitious target of generating N2 trillion in annual revenue from this sector by the year 2027.

The revelation came from the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, during an ongoing ministerial briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.

Outlined within a comprehensive strategy, the plan involves a three-pronged approach to significantly increase revenue generation and operational efficiency within the marine sector.

Oyetola highlighted the imperative of automating revenue collection processes to eradicate bottlenecks and enhance transparency and accountability.

By deploying revenue assurance technologies, the aim is to ensure accurate billing aligned with established contracts and services rendered, thereby preventing revenue leakage.

The ministry plans to commission revenue enhancement studies targeting various departments and agencies to identify avenues for maximizing the use of existing assets.

This includes leveraging concessions to the private sector and fostering public-private partnerships to ensure efficient utilization of national assets.

Recognizing the vast potential of the blue economy, Nigeria intends to embark on investment promotion campaigns aimed at both domestic and international investors.

This strategy seeks to unlock new revenue streams within the marine sector, paving the way for sustainable economic growth.

Minister Oyetola emphasized the importance of harnessing Nigeria’s marine and blue economy, noting its significant role in driving economic diversification and reducing dependency on traditional sectors.

He underscored the government’s commitment to fostering an enabling environment for investment and innovation within the sector.

The ambitious revenue target reflects Nigeria’s determination to tap into its vast marine resources, which have long been underutilized.

With strategic planning and concerted efforts, the country aims to position itself as a key player in the global blue economy, unlocking opportunities for sustainable development and prosperity.

As Nigeria charts its course towards achieving this ambitious goal, stakeholders across government, industry, and civil society will play a pivotal role in driving forward the necessary reforms and initiatives to realize the full potential of the marine and blue economy.

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Economy

Investor Optimism Dwindles One Year After Tinubu’s Reforms

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Bola Tinubu

One year into President Bola Tinubu’s administration, the initial investor enthusiasm over his ambitious economic reforms is fading.

Despite significant changes aimed at revitalizing Nigeria’s economy, persistent challenges such as currency volatility and high inflation are dampening investor confidence.

Upon assuming office in late May 2023, Tinubu enacted a series of reforms intended to attract foreign investment and boost dollar liquidity.

These included eliminating costly fuel subsidies, appointing ex-Citibank executive Olayemi Cardoso as the new central bank governor, and overhauling the country’s exchange-rate policies, which effectively devalued the naira.

While these steps initially sparked optimism and increased dollar inflows, the momentum has since waned.

Kevin Daly, a portfolio manager at London-based Abrdn Investments Ltd., highlighted the need for further stability in Nigeria’s foreign exchange market before considering additional investments in local currency bonds.

“We are likely to add to local currency bonds once FX volatility declines, but the timing of that remains up in the air,” Daly remarked.

He emphasized that the central bank cannot be the sole provider of FX liquidity for the market, calling for more foreign portfolio flows and a degree of de-dollarization.

Data from Tellimer Ltd. reveals that investor inflows into Nigeria’s foreign-exchange market fell by nearly 20% in April, averaging $200 million daily, and dropped further to $180 million in the first three weeks of May.

Since June, the naira has depreciated by almost 67% against the dollar. Additionally, the reintroduction of fuel subsidies, following public backlash over rising living costs, has further complicated the economic landscape.

Inflation remains a significant hurdle, with rates soaring to approximately 33.7%, far outpacing the central bank’s policy rate of 26.25%.

This has deterred investors like Ayo Salami, chief investment officer at Emerging Markets Investment Management Ltd., from venturing into local currency bonds, deeming them unattractive under current conditions.

Another critical issue is the repatriation of funds. While Nigeria offers higher equity valuations and yields compared to some emerging and frontier markets, peers like South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, and Pakistan present lower repatriation risks, more credible policy frameworks, and advanced policy corrections.

Ladi Balogun, CEO of Lagos-based FCMB Group, underscored the importance of consistent and clear policy direction to restore investor confidence.

“I think as long as we can be consistent and clear about policy direction, when it comes to monetary policy and the like, then I think you will see confidence return, then you will see liquidity return,” Balogun stated. “That is when you will see international investors come back.”

As Nigeria navigates these economic challenges, the road to restoring and sustaining investor confidence remains complex and fraught with hurdles. The coming months will be crucial in determining whether Tinubu’s administration can achieve the stability and growth it seeks.

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Economy

IMF Boosts China’s 2024 Growth Forecast to 5% Amid Strong Start

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its forecast for China’s economic growth in 2024 to 5%, up from its earlier estimate of 4.6%.

This adjustment reflects a robust expansion at the start of the year and additional government support aimed at stabilizing and invigorating the economy.

The IMF’s latest projection aligns with China’s target growth rate of around 5% for the year.

The upward revision comes on the heels of a better-than-expected 5.3% growth in the first quarter, indicating a strong recovery trajectory despite ongoing challenges in the housing market, which continues to dampen domestic demand.

Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s First Deputy Managing Director, highlighted the dual forces driving this positive outlook.

“We certainly are seeing that consumption is recovering, but it has some ways to go,” Gopinath noted in a recent interview with Bloomberg News.

“The strength we’re seeing in public investment remains. Private investment is still weak, mainly because of the weakness in the property sector.”

The IMF’s statement emphasized the need for Beijing to enhance monetary and fiscal support, particularly addressing the protracted housing crisis.

Gopinath underscored the urgency of protecting buyers of pre-sold unfinished homes and accelerating the completion of these projects to stabilize the sector.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities unveiled new measures to support the real estate market.

These include easing down-payment requirements for buyers and injecting 300 billion yuan ($42 billion) of central bank funding to assist local governments in purchasing excess inventory from developers. However, Gopinath argued that these steps should be expanded.

“Fiscal policy should prioritize providing one-off central government financial support for the real estate sector,” she stated, adding that the current low inflation environment offers room for further monetary easing.

Beyond the domestic landscape, the IMF is also monitoring the implications of international trade tensions. Gopinath expressed concerns over the rising number of trade restrictions globally, noting that about 3,000 new trade barriers were introduced in 2023 alone, triple the number in 2019.

These developments are contributing to an emerging trend of geopolitical fragmentation in global trade.

“There has been an increase in more restrictive trade policies across countries,” Gopinath said. “Trade across countries that are more geopolitically aligned is holding up better than trade across countries that are less geopolitically aligned.”

The IMF’s revised forecast underscores a cautiously optimistic outlook for China’s economy.

While strong public investment and government support are driving growth, the ongoing weaknesses in the property sector and global trade tensions present challenges that need to be carefully navigated.

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