Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, last Thursday, presented to the Delta State House of Assembly the N271 billion 2017 budget proposal he christened “budget of fiscal consolidation and steady progress.” He did that and laid it before the law makers for necessary legislative scrutiny and passage.
Clad in blue native attire and red cap to match, Okowa gave details of the budget, allocating N152 billion for recurrent expenditure and N119 billion for capital expenditure.
The 2017 budget proposal which he christened “budget of fiscal consolidation and steady progress” is slightly higher than the 2016 budget estimate of N268 billion. Naming the main sources of funding the proposed budget to include, internally generated revenue, statutory allocation, value added tax and other capital receipts, he said the recurrent expenditure which represents 56% of the total budget is lower with N1.4 billion when compared with the amount of N153 billion allocated to it in the 2016 budget.
Explaining the budget amidst cheers from the gallery, Okowa said that the capital expenditure which represents 44% of the total budget size is N4 billion higher than the last year amount of N115 billion estimate for 2016 fiscal year, adding that his administration would continue to reduce unnecessary waste and keep a tight lid on government spending.
While blaming the poor revenue receipt from the Federation Account in the 2016 fiscal year on the spate of bombing of oil installations in the Niger Delta, Okowa said; “For us in Delta, it was a particularly painful and harrowing experience as much of the bombings and disruption of oil production occurred in our State.
“Consequently, we found ourselves in double jeopardy. With receipts from the Federation Account already plummeting, our plight was aggravated as our share from the Derivation Formula reached an all-time low. What our brothers and sisters need to know is that pipeline vandalisation hurts us more than it hurts other parts of the country; accruals to Delta State from the Derivation Formula is a function of how much oil we supply to the national oil company for export.
“Regrettably, the activities of the militants saw us slump from being number two among oil producing States to number four resulting in severe damage to our finances. It is our hope that with the renewed engagement of all stakeholders by the Federal Government, and our willingness and determination to follow through with the peace process, the country and our State will experience a better 2017, devoid of the interruptions and disruptions that characterised the outgoing year.
“Nevertheless, our proposals and expectations for 2017 are grounded in cautious optimism. You will notice that the proposed budget size is marginally higher than the approved budget for 2016 because we are mindful of the current realities. It is incumbent on us as a government to present a budget that is practical, realistic and responsible.”
The governor who paid priority attention to road infrastructure and education, earmarked over N47 billion for road infrastructure and education from the N119 billion proposed for capital expenditure in the budget.
Okowa who is not daunted by the present economic downturn, insisted that paucity of funds did not hinder the provision of infrastructure in the implementation of the 2016 budget. He said, “in the first year of our administration, we constructed and completed 55 road projects covering over 148 kilometres (including 113 kilometres of concrete-lined drains) at a total cost of N27.2 billion.
“Between June and now, a further N2 billion has been committed to the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation and completion of 29 roads across the State. We fully intend to sustain this momentum in the coming year.
“A total sum of N35.188 billion is allocated to road infrastructure in the 2017 fiscal year and because, technical and vocational education is at the core of our educational policy, which emphasises skills acquisition as against certificate acquisition, the sum of N900 million is earmarked to strengthen Vocational and Technical Education in the State during the2017 fiscal year.
“As contained in the 2016 budget, we intend to establish a Teacher Professional Development Centre aimed at updating and upgrading the skill set of our teachers by providing systematic and coordinated capacity building for them; the Centre will also coordinate teacher’s professional registration, licensing as well as offer continuous professional development programmes and the sum of N400 million is proposed for the Centre in the 2017 budget. A total sum of N12 billion is allocated to the education sub-sector for capital projects in 2017.”
Continuing, the elated Governor said; “the proposed capital expenditure estimates for 2017 is N119.001 billion and the proposal is four billion, one hundred and fourteen million naira (N4.114bn) or 3.58 per cent higher than the 2016 capital budget of N114.886 billion,” explaining that the sum of N6.3 billion was allocated for the health sector as capital expenditure.
“The sum of N1.3 billion was budgeted for Job Creation scheme, agriculture, N535 million, Finance and Investment, N1.1 billion, Environment and Urban Renewal (N1.2 billion), and for general administration. This administration is committed to the application of the rule of law; in this regard, the state’s Justice System will continue to receive maximum attention in the delivery of justice to our people; we shall continue with the development of our courts and offices including residential quarters for our judges throughout the State and for these, the sums of N400million and N174million have been proposed for the High Court of Justice and Customary Court of Appeal, respectively, during the 2017 fiscal year.
“The construction of a befitting State Civil Service Secretariat Complex will commence in 2017. Government also intends to complete the on-going construction of the Office of the Head of Service Complex; no doubt, the construction of a new State Secretariat Complex and the office of the Head of Service will not only save costs for the government in the long term, but also enhance better coordination and efficiency of government operations across the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, so, the sum of N1 billion has been earmarked for the Secretariat Complex, while N100 million is provided for the Office of the Head of Service in the proposed capital budget of the 2017 fiscal year.
“In 2017, we hope to extend our social safety net through the provision of N1.2 billion for the State’s Social Security programme which will cover agro-business, skill acquisition or outright disbursement of cash to persons in dire conditions.”