Nigeria: Buhari Presents 2019 Budget to Raucous Lawmakers

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari presents the 2019 budget at the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, Dec. 19, 2018.
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ABUJA — Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari presented an 8.83 trillion naira ($28.80 billion) budget for 2019 on Wednesday, laying out plans to drive growth to a raucous parliament that highlighted divisions two months before an election.

The spending plan for Africa’s top oil producer assumes crude production of 2.3 million barrels a day, an oil price of $60 per barrel and an exchange rate of 305 naira to the dollar.

Buhari’s handling of the economy — which emerged from its first recession in 25 years this year but remains sluggish — has become a campaign issue.

A man gestures as Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari presents the 2019 budget at the National Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, Dec. 19, 2018

The main opposition candidate, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, has criticized policies implemented by Buhari since taking office in 2015 and vowed to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025 if elected.

Coming months after dozens of lawmakers defected to the opposition, Buhari received a rowdy reception with many of his statements greeted by jeers and chants of “lies,” while supporters at times stood to applaud.

“We are supposed to be above this,” said Buhari at one point, in response to boos.

Buhari said 2.28 trillion naira had been allocated to capital spending and 2.14 trillion naira for debt service, of which 80 percent was domestic debt that he said accounted for about 70 percent of the total debt.

“Although our national debt is within sustainable limits, we need to increase our domestic resource mobilization to bring down our debt-revenue ratio over the medium term,” he said.

Lower than 2018 budget

The spending plan is smaller than the record 9.12 trillion-naira budget for 2018 that he signed into law in June.

The 2019 budget must still be approved by parliament, a process that can take months.

Previous budgets have been delayed by wrangling and next year there will be the added complication of the presidential election followed by gubernatorial elections weeks later.

“The proposal is unlikely to be approved before February’s election, meaning that both the assembly and Mr. Buhari himself might be replaced mid-way through the process,” said John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics.

“Even once the budget is finalized, it may not prove an accurate guide to actual spending,” he said, adding, “More broadly, today’s speech underlined the fact that another term for Mr. Buhari would mean policy stability.”

Nigeria’s economy grew by 1.81 percent in the third quarter of this year. The inflation rate rose slightly in November to 11.28 percent compared with a year ago.
– Reuters

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