By Sadiq Umar, Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday presented a budget of N6.08 trillion for the 2016 fiscal year, even as he apologized to Nigerians over the lingering fuel crisis in the country.
Buhari who addressed a joint session of the National Assembly for the first time, on the occasion of the presentation of the 2016 budget proposal assured Nigerians that his government seeks to stimulate the economy, making it more competitive by focusing on infrastructural development, delivering inclusive growth, and prioritizing the welfare of Nigerians.
On the protracted fuel queues across the country, the President said government was making efforts to bring an end to the shortages.
“Government profoundly apologizes to Nigerians for this prolonged hardship and misery.
“It is as a result of market speculators and resistance to change by some stakeholders.
“Government is working very hard to end these shortages and to bring fuel to the pumps all over the country,’’ he said.
According to Buhari, the budget is designed to “revive our economy, deliver inclusive growth to Nigerians and create a significant number of jobs.”
He said the budget is fashioned to lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth, adding that the budget, while helping industry, commerce and investment to pick up, would as a matter of urgency, address the immediate problems of youth unemployment and the terrible living conditions of the extremely poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
The President said his government aims to ensure macroeconomic stability by achieving a real Gross Domestic Product growth rate of 4.37 per cent and managing inflation.
To achieve this, he said they will ensure the aligning of fiscal, monetary, trade and industrial policies.
“As we focus on inclusive growth, we are conscious of the current rate of unemployment and under-employment.
“This is a challenge we are determined to meet, and this budget is the platform for putting more Nigerians to work. I can assure you that this administration will have a job creation focus in every aspect of the execution of this budget.
“Nigeria’s job creation drive will be private sector led. We will encourage this by a reduction in tax rates for smaller businesses as well as subsidized funding for priority sectors such as agriculture and solid minerals.
“As an emergency measure, to address the chronic shortage of teachers in public schools across the country, we also will partner with state and local governments to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders.
“These graduate teachers will be deployed to primary schools, thereby, enhancing the provision of basic education especially in our rural areas,” he said.
The President said the federal government intends to partner with state and local governments to provide financial training and loans to market women, traders and artisans, through their cooperative societies.
“This segment of our society is not only critical to our plan for growing small businesses, but it is also an important platform to create jobs and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
Buhari noted that through the office of the Vice President, the government is working with various development partners to design an implementable and transparent conditional cash transfer program for the poorest and most vulnerable.
“This program will be implemented in phases. Already, the compilation of registers of the poorest persons is ongoing. In the coming weeks, we will present the full programme, which will include our home-grown public primary school feeding and free education for science, technology and education students in our tertiary institutions. Indeed, this will mark a historic milestone for us as a nation,” he assured.
Furthermore, President Buhari stressed that after reviewing the trends in the global oil industry, the government set a benchmark price of $38 per barrel and a production estimate of 2.2 million barrels per day for 2016.
The government, he said, has focused on non-oil revenues by broadening the country’s tax base and improving the effectiveness of the revenue collecting agencies.
He said that with the full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), “we expect significant improvements in the collection and remittance of independent revenues.”
To further support .the drive for increased remittances, the President said his government will ensure that all MDAs presented their budgets in advance, and remit their operating surpluses as required by section 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
On his anti-corruption drive, he said: “We have demonstrated a strong will to fight corruption. I am sure you will agree that the sheer scale of corruption and impunity of the past explains in part, the economic challenges we now face.
“On these initiatives, and the many more to come, we shall not be deterred. We will pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria. No matter where it is hidden. No matter how long it will take,” he added.