Akwa Ibom State government has rejected insinuations from a non- governmental organisation (NGO) that its 2018 budget is bloated and over ambitions, saying such allegation is misleading considering the current exchange rate of the country’s currency against the dollars.
An Uyo-based NGO had in a statement described the Akwa Ibom 2018 budget proposal of N651.5 billion as “the most bloated budget in the history of the state” and demanded that it should be reduced “because the performance of the capital budget in the past years had been unimpressive.”
However, Linus Nkan, commissioner for finance, explained during an interview that the accusation was baseless and without any foundation.
The budget proposals are anchored on estimates and not actuals, Nkan said, which according to him enables the state government to make adjustments as the need arises in the course of implementing the budget.
According to Nkan, the exchange rate is important in determining the budget size; while last year’s budget was based on an exchange rate of N196 to the dollar, this year’s budget is pegged on an exchange of N305 to the dollar.
“The NGO did not state the basis of its suggestion because the budget size of Akwa Ibom State both 2017 and 2018 have different benchmarks. The benchmark of 2017 budget was based on the exchange rate of N196 to a dollar but this time around, we are talking about N305 per dollar.
“In Nigeria, everything is subjected to the dollar. If we actually wanted to compare, the size of last year’s budget and this year’s budget in dollars, the 2018 budget is smaller than that of 2017. The budget is an estimate, you give yourself some allowance,’’ he said.
The commissioner, who said “what we inherited as debt was not anything significant,” noted that borrowing to fund development projects was not against any financial regulation when the borrowed funds were deployed into the implementation of life touching projects.
He said the refusal to borrow would not help the economy but result in lack of growth, maintaining that borrowing on the other hand and investing in life changing projects would guarantee economic growth when the funds were judiciously used.
Tijah Bolton Akpan, an official of policy alert, the NGO that issued the statement, also accused the state government of doubling its internally generated revenue (IGR) projections for 2018 “without commensurate strategies for strengthening revenue generation.
“This is worrisome because even though the budget is an estimate, it is also a law that has implications on the rights and livelihoods of citizens, and it is irresponsible to make laws that we have no intention of respecting.”
The NGO however advised the state government to increase its allocation in the 2018 budget to healthcare services as well as the science and technology sector.