The Political Impact of Bayelsa ‘s 2010 Budget

Politics and leadership should be Siamese twins. While politics is about power relationships in particular fields, leadership reminds us of the guidiance from one man of influence in a group situation that helps the group to achieve desired ends. You need extraordinary leadership to succeed in the slippery Nigerian political terrain. No need to elaborate here. Ronald Reagan said that politics was much like the oldest profession in one hand and like show business on the other hand. “You have one hell of opening, coast for a while and then a hell of a close” Theodore Roosevelt cautioned leaders to speak softly and carry a big stick if they want to go far. For him, politicians should not “hit at all if it can be avoided, but should never hit softly”, concluding that every reform movement has its lunatic fringe. It was as if they spoke about Bayelsa State and her intractable political melodrama.
You cannot but admire similar leadership traits from Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State Nigeria He lives the truism about leaders who must bend backwards at times to avoid sustaining an unnecessary battle under their own roof .After a turbulent period involving near fist cuffs with his Deputy Barr. P. Ebebi over local government electoral fortunes in the State, he sits relaxed flanked by Ebebi, delivering his 2010 Bayelsa State budget speech as if nothing happened. At a time it seemed as if the State would not recover from political cleavages right left and centre. This performance may well outstrip the impact of the budget in the economic realm. Oh how the State needs this unprecedented reconciliation to move forward through these uncertain post Amnesty times along decidedly shaky paths of nationally hamstrung efforts at attaining sustainable development, far away of course from the States ultimate vision of secure, prosperous and united Bayelsa.
The 2010 budget estimates may not meet your idea of a balanced budget even if realistic, but it comes at a time of dire economic downturn for a state used to windfall of cash. Once bitten twice shy, Bayelsa has learnt something from last years disastrous outing even though the Governor did not directly confirm this in his 2010 budget speech to the State House of Assembly in Yenagoa recently. It was a reconciliatory speech not forgetting to pour encomiums on the State house of Assembly who stood by him all the way. Total projected revenue of N178.52 billion was made under these more realistic assumptions:* crude oil production-2.088 barrels per day.*benchmark of oil price -$50 per barrel.*exchange rate-N147/US$1*share of the revenue from 13% derivation formula-13%* percentage increase in internally generated revenue28.90% *Projected capital receipts –N86.42billion.The budget breakdown comprises of N116.47billion or 65.2% for recurrent expenditure made up of N18.17 billion for personnel costs,N78.83 for consolidated revenue fund charges and N19.47 billion for overhead costs. Ironically it was the capital expenditure that retained a lower percentage at N62.05 billion or 34.8% of total expenditure.
Recall that monthly revenues fell in 2009 from 15billion naira to 5billion naira thereby sweeping away many of the dream plans of the government for the 2009 fiscal year. Many reviewers have criticized the 2009 budget provisions as unrealistic despite the recession which was worsened by production reducing militancy in the Creeks .Expectedly many groups within the civil society have emerged to review the
budget and offer advice. In reviewing the 2009 budget the Niger Delta citizen’s budget platform scored government high in openness in the treatment of budget document as well as in internally generated revenue but low in participation of citizens in budget process. However the Governor remained diplomatic with his own assessment of the 2009 offered explanations. According to his speech,Mr Speaker, the performance of the2009 budget has been satisfactory, given the projects and programs implemented compared to actual revenue receipts. The governor however admitted that the lessons of 2009 were taken into consideration in arriving at the 2010 budget assumptions explaining that the adoption of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework [MTEF] was designed to comply with Fiscal Responsibility law. “In compliance with the fiscal responsibility law, the revenue and expenditure estimates presented in the 2010 budget are based on the 2010-2012 MTEF and the outcomes of 2010-2012 Medium Term Sector Strategies [MTSS] which were held in batches between 26th August-17th September, 2009 with the active involvement of Organized Private Sector and Civil Society, and in consultation with the relevant Committees of the Bayelsa State house of Assembly.
What is the big deal about the budget that merits all these efforts to put it together by stakeholders? Transparency demands the participation of all stakeholders in not only planning but implementation. For Bayelsa state whose economy is crude oil dependent this is even more urgent in order to woo investors. Today these investors have established ways of monitoring everything the government is doing and they even make demands. Yes, they demand accountability, transparency and popular participation in governance. Already many global bodies have recognized the transparent credentials of the Bayelsa government and have made conditions for partnership. The latest being the United Nations Chidrens Fund [UNICEF].The global body just signed an MOU with the government to help out with implementation of Health and rural poverty alleviation measures but they require that those above mentioned bodies and more including counterpart funding be made available by the State government for this purpose. In the states efforts to meet these conditions she begins to offer good governance to the people through achieving social synergy amongst all stakeholders
On the guiding principles for budget planning and implementation, the governor explains:’ This budgetary framework provides a platform for improved efficiency and leads to the effective use of public resources by focusing on the critical sectors that would propel growth of our economy and a more realistic allocation within each sector. We have begun the shift away from spending our limited resources thinly across many projects that take several years to complete, to one where we concentrate and focus on fewer and highly impactful and prioritized projects which we can bring to quick completion” It may not satisfy all the critics but there is a saying that whenever a man wakes up is his morning, so this budget has already produced its magic akin to the Federal Government Amnesty program since it allowed all the factions to have a their say.
Essentially the budget will achieve the following: * It will direct resources to complete on going viable projects. What it means is that some projects may be considered unviable even if ongoing.*It will pursue grater participation of the private sector in the infrastructural development of the state especially in Agriculture and business incubation within the Central Business District. For instance the private sector can now go also join government in road construction and management.*It will strengthen capacity of the state and stakeholders to plan implement and monitor budgets in future. Through human capacity training and gathering experiences in partnership ventures the state enables itself to face future challenges*It will enable the State to pursue investments in financial instruments to broaden revenue base. In a globalised world all players must find ways of making their money grow even states.*The 2010 budget in its uniqueness empowers the state to perform periodic budget monitoring exercises something that would have been farfetched hitherto. The Ministry of finance will be able to undertake her monitoring function under this budget with a view to pushing out periodic data to enhance performance of the budget, as well as of the medium term plans.*The budget with its strong diversification component away from oil dependence promises to drive up the internally generated revenue of the state.* It will also spur research into determining the production level of crude oil in the state so that Bayelsa can take her due in terms of federally collectible revenue.*When all these have been done, then the state would have improved her access to donor fund globally.
Allocation of fund to MDAs once again gave priority to critical infrastructure as exemplified in the activities of the Ministry of work and transport. The Ministry took home the giant share of N14.370 billion. Others were Education, Agriculture, CCDA, Water Resources, Local Government, Health, Energy, Youths and Sports, Information etc in that order. As for implementation which remains the litmus test for a good budget, despite increased confidence, despite determination to hold MDAs accountable; despite acknowledging it, this budget has done little to cushion external shocks if and when it comes.

Mr. Nworisara,a political analyst ,writes from Port Harcourt.

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