2019: If Buhari government does not go, poverty will continue — Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki was in Lagos last week during which he met editors of some media houses. Saraki spoke  on the 2019 Budget as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly and some issues in the polity. Excerpts
Looking at the budget benchmark, you can see the oil price coming down gradually. Will this not gravely affect the benchmark? I made a comment where I said that it was a hopeless budget that will rarely bring Nigerians out of poverty, diversification of the economy and inclusive growth. When I said that, I noticed  that  a lot of people were a bit defensive, saying the statement was borne out of politics. I am  responsible enough to choose my words and I am happy about this question. If you followed the previous budgets, there was no budget under this administration that I have ever used any word as strong as that. Some of the budgets had given hope, some had tried to address growth but this budget, particularly, I stick to my words, it is not only hopeless, I think it is also  deceptive. Is it that those that prepared the budget did not ask  themselves these questions? Looking at the issue of the oil price, they have not completed budgeting exercise when the price of crude oil dropped to fifty something dollars and they are now using the benchmark higher than the current crude oil price. If some people believe that the price might go up, then they better come back later with supplementary budget. But to  put  the price at 60  (dollars) is not realistic. And government itself would soon know that the price will not be realistic. Not only the price, if you look at the production level, throughout 2018 and 2017, we  were producing about 1.9 million barrels and we are now using 2.3 million, how? What indices are there? Again, it is not realistic. And if you are going to base your revenues on that, you’ve already seen a  big hole, that was the reason  I said that it was not a budget of inclusive growth. Would you say the preparation was wrong or was it  done simply out of ignorance? Well, I can’t see their minds or speak on their behalf. What I am  saying is from my own experience. I was SA  Budget and I showed interest  in everything, what I suspect is that they are just looking at the best way of financing the expenditure, based on realistic projections. What is even disturbing is the fact that when you look at the total expenditure, you’ll see that over 70 per cent is already gone on recurrent, debt servicing among others. So, it’s clear that any shortfall of revenue is going to be very impactful because between the crude oil price and production, we have already seen that once we don’t meet those targets, we are going to have a huge deficit problem.

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