Read Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki’s speech during the presentation of the 2017 budget proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier today, before a joint session of the National Assembly.
Here is the full speech as presented by Saraki:
“It is my pleasure on behalf of my Distinguished and Honourable colleagues to warmly welcome you Mr. President and your entourage to this joint session of the National Assembly.
“Mr. President, while we may have struggled with key aspects of our budget process in the past, I am happy to note that we have made some important progress.
“To start with, we are seeing the budget presentation coming slightly earlier this year. Though, we hope to see an even greater improvement on this in the coming year. But more importantly however, is that so far this year’s budget process has benefitted from greater cooperation and consultations between the National Assembly and the Executive.
“Mr. President, I wish to note that the National Assembly recognizes however that the problem with our budget and budgeting process goes far deeper than the relative progress we have made. This is why in August this year, I inaugurated a joint Executive/Legislative committee and a technical committee to review our budget systems and identify ways we can make them more transparent, more participatory, more result oriented and therefore more effective.
“The committee has since submitted its report and the National Assembly is already started the process of implementing the recommendations.
“Already, we have tried to bring the key highlights of the report into effect within the 2016 framework. These include :
• pre-budget consultation and engagement,
• greater information sharing and recording,
• Public hearing on the budget bill
• Drafting of an Organic Budget Bill
• Amendment of the Public Procurement Act
“Our hope is that the remainder of the recommendations of this report will be implemented within the 2017 budget year with the passage of the Organic Budget Law.
“The Organic Budget Law will provide the legal framework for regulating the procedures that budget preparation, approval, implementation and even accounting must follow. It will bring the budget and national planning regime within a clearly defined framework, thereby ensuring greater predictability, transparency and efficiency.
“When the current National Assembly introduced the Civil Society Public Hearing on the Budget initiative, the idea was to open up the budgeting space by incorporating the Civil Society into the budget process, thereby ensuring greater transparency and accountability. We are proud to say that this engagement has come to stay as a crucial part of our budget approval process.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, honourablemembers, you would recall when the National Bureau of Statistics NBS came out with the numbers to confirm that the Nigerian economy has slumped into recession, the National Assembly rose with one voice. Through a joint resolution, we recommended that you make a “state of the nation” address on the plan of government to get us out of recession and have 20 important Executive actions that in our view needed to be taken to get the economy back on track. The National Assembly on its part listed and prioritized 11 economic reform bills for passage. We intend to get these bills ready alongside the 2017 Appropriation bill. We believe that the core elementsof these bills will aid the Executive in mobilizing the required private capital into the general economy, but especially the infrastructure market.
“In the thinking of the 8th National Assembly, our country can no longer rely on the public sector alone to spend us out of recession. It is therefore critical that we mainstream private sector business and investment in the economy. To achieve this, we must make it much easier and efficient for people to invest and do business in our country.
“Further to this, we are also aware that if we must attract private investments to play a central role in our economic recovery efforts, must make deliberate efforts to market Nigeria as an attractive brand through a very robust and highly coordinated process of engagements. This effort must necessarily start with injecting confidence in the market through clarity and consistency of policies. We must speak the right language and show that we are open to and ready for legitimate business.
“I wish to reassure Mr. President that the National Assembly would continue to seek opportunities to deepen this relationship because we are convinced it is the only by working closely together that our country can make the progress that we all desire.
“The overarching purpose of a budget is essentially to ease the economic pressure on our people in general and the poor most especially. The 2017 budget assumes even a greater significance, particularly in this time of recession. Mr. President, the feedback we get from visits to our various constituencies is that there is hardship in the land. We can see it and we can feel it. This situation therefore commands all of us as government to a greater sense of urgency. We cannot work magic, but we must continue to work the clock.
“Our people must see that the singular pre-occupation of government is the search for solution to the current economic hardship; and the commitment to ease their burden. They don’t want to know what political parties we belong, what language we speak or how we worship God. They have trusted their fates into our hands, and they need us now more than ever, to justify the trust that they have reposed on us. The people of Nigeria will pardon us if we do some things wrong. But they will not forgive us if we do nothing. And that is why, Mr. President the two chambers have taken a position whatever may be our differences, or opinions on issues of the economy we will all work with one common purpose for this reason.