At Long Last! Mass Housing is Here!
By Olusola Daniel
An unbiased examination of the 2014 budget proposal presently under consideration of the National Assembly will reveal that it is not doomed after all, as those opposing it would have us believe. From all indications, the budget has a potential to lay a great foundation for the growth of the Nigerian economy.
Being one of those who become upset about the negative headlines and op-eds that tend to portray the Finance Minister as incompetent in the preparation of this budget, I decided to go online and download the budget. After dissecting it, I came to the realisation that those opposing it are making much ado about nothing. This is a budget that is comprehensive and detailed down to how much is spent on buying cutleries.
I was awed and motivated to write this piece by the level of thought that must have gone into preparing the budget. I will attempt to look at some of the budget’s highlights. But before that, it is imperative that we understand that the budget is not simply a set of revenue and expenditure plans by government. Rather, it is a statement about government’s fiscal and related policies which are intended to move the economy forward. Therefore, the budget is not only about the resources being allocated to various sectors alone, but also about fiscal policies aimed at stimulating growth across various strata of the economy.
From this context, an informed analyst will understand that for any budget to be given a pass mark, some fundamentals must be present. Fundamental questions such as what are the fiscal policies and related polices being put forward to advance the economy? Of course, we must look at the figures; but it is equally important to look at the policies. The 2014 budget scored a great point in both counts.
For an average Nigerian, owning a house is a tall dream that seems unattainable. It is like climbing Mount Everest on an empty stomach. Understanding the magnitude of this challenge, the Jonathan administration initiated a policy that collaborates with the private sector as well as World Bank’s setoff loan of $300 million for this purpose. The money is to be used to set up a Mortgage Refinance Company to cater to the affordable housing needs of the Nigerian masses.
At the inauguration of the mortgage firm by President Jonathan in Abuja three weeks ago, the Finance Minister was reported to have assured that this scheme will be driven by integrity.
The government has also put in place supportive policies for the housing sector, whilst aiming to catalyse eight times more than what is allocated for housing in the budget by supporting the private sector to be the deliverer and creator of jobs.
The Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Institution will have $250 million as seed capital. It will float bonds for another N50 billion. That is already almost N100 billion in capitalisation. Juxtapose that with the N12.9 billion that sits in the 2014 budget, it reveals that these are catalysts to bigger government policies that liberate more resources and create jobs. Now, I see reason why the 2014 budget is termed budget for job creation and inclusive growth.
Agriculture & Reinforced Sectorial Initiatives
In Agriculture, the government has affirmed that it will continue to focus on sectoral initiative with a plan to empower 750,000 young Nigerians to become Nagropreneurs. In addition to the establishment of a wholesale development finance institution aimed at granting Nigerian entrepreneurs access to affordable financing, the budget holds hope for the producing sectors of the economy, including agriculture.
The government is establishing a Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) with $100 million. It will focus on SMEs and boost manufacturing in these SMEs by implementing the Nigerian Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) to help SMEs with business development support, provision of access to finance and training. This will support young people who are involved in the SMEs sector.
A closer look at the budget also reveals that it beefs up investments towards completion of critical infrastructure projects including those in the power, rail, roads and aviation sectors.
Undeniably, the 2014 budget presents a ray of hope for the Nigerian people. It is a budget that is building the foundation for a robust economy that provides good jobs and wealth for the Nigerian people. As a nation, we need to examine things by ourselves and not act solely based on what people say.
What people say are often garnished with agenda, opinions and political leanings! I have read it for myself; the 2014 budget is not as bad as we are being made to believe by the opposition politicians.
There is hope in the 2014 budget.
Olusola Daniel is a political observer and advocate for community development. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria and tweets from @OlusDaniel.