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Senate Urges Fiscal Restraint Amid Naira Depreciation: Calls for Prudent Budget Management

The Senate has warned the executive against increasing the budget size through a supplementary budget, advising the government to use the excess savings that are expected to be made from the recent depreciation of the naira to fund deficit.

This came against the backdrop of the depreciation of the local currency against the United States dollar from N900/$r to over 1,500/$, following a series of moves by the Central Bank of Nigeria to unify the parallel and official market exchange rates of the naira.

The National Assembly had in December moved the 2024 budget benchmark exchange rate from N750/dollar sent by President Bola Tinubu to N800/dollar. Giving reasons at that time, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Solomon Adeola, explained, “The current price of the dollar at the black market is between N1200 and N1300 and in the Central Bank of Nigeria, it is between N950 and N1000 and we have a budget which was pegged at N750, if you look at the gap, you’d realise that has covered a lot of gaps already.”

“Again, we did some external consultations, most especially in the area of oil benchmark and petroleum resources, if we had gone in that line, we’d have pegged it at N850/N900 to a dollar and we agree that we want to be conservative in our approach, so that nobody will think that we want to increase the budget for any ulterior motive, that was why we left it at N490bn out of which N44bn is for statutory transfer, so effectively, the increment is about N446bn that is going into the Federal Government pocket as consolidated revenue.”

“So, you can see that what necessitated our action is the economic reality and what is obtainable in both the black and open markets.” However, following the depreciation of the naira from N900/dollar to over N1,500/dollar, the Senate has advised the Federal Government against increasing the budget size, saying the move could worsen the country’s already high inflation rate.

Rather, the Senate said the executive should use the excess savings to cut down on loans it would seek to fund the deficit in the budget.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Tokunbo Abiru, in an exclusive interview with Findwhosabi, advised the Federal government to avoid increasing the budget size.

He also advised that gains from the budget should be spent on reducing the budget deficit.

He said, “My position will be to advise that the Federal Government not to expand the size of the budget, rather use whatever gains that come to moderate inflation excess; and even the appetite for contracting loans for deficit should be moderated.”

He also explained that it was too early to determine the workability of the budget despite the volatility of the naira.

He explained, “What you use in budgeting is average rate not spot rate. What you are seeing today in the forex market is still looking like a spot rate.

“And you can see all attempts, all efforts from the end of Central Bank of Nigeria and the federal government is to find a way to stabilize. I can’t tell what the stabilized number would be.” Abiru added, “So it will be too hasty to begin to judge from the current spot performance, not until when we have something close to our average or stable position. That’s when you should not be thinking about any revision of the budget.”

Also speaking in the same vein, the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ali Ndume, said the country would be saving over N600 on every dollar in the 2024 budget. According to him, Nigeria earns over 60 per cent of its revenue in dollars and, as such, the fall of the naira against the dollar has created huge savings for the country. Explaining he said, “We should be talking about budget excess not deficit. We spend naira, our budget is in Naira and we are spending in naira.

“The crude oil is our major source of income and it is being sold in dollars. So, if we are to analyze things, then we are making more money than losing money. The Federal Government pegged it first at N750 but at the National Assembly we jerked it up to N800.” Ndume added, “So, we are selling our crude at about N1400 instead of N800, so we are making about N600 budget excesses. So, we have more money to spend.

“The budget is a dolarised budget so to say, such that our income is in dollars and expenditure is in naira. We are spending naira and earning dollars.”

On the increment in the prices of foodstuff, the lawmaker said that the hike in the prices was caused by Nigerians who were taking advantage of the volatility of the foreign exchange.

Ndume added, “The problem we have is in foreign exchange, but most of our foods are produced locally. So, the increment is on people who decide to take advantage of the foreign exchange.

“For instance, we don’t import corn, beans and other foodstuff, so why are the prices of foodstuff going up?”

Economists react

A professor of Economics at Babcock University, Ilisan, Ogun State, Segun Ajibola, said the rise in dollar would affect both the budget revenue and expenditure. “You know budget is both sides – revenue and expenditure. The first thing we should realise is that if government earns dollar, the

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