Tuesday, July 21, 2020 5:05 pm
Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), on 21 July 2020, held a zoom press conference on the Government’s Economic Sustainability Plan 2020. Below is the critique and Summary of the group’s position:
2020 Economic Plan: ASCAB presents a peoples alternative
Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan launched recently by the Federal Government will fail to deal with the lack of the essentials of life which is the major challenge facing more than half the population of Nigerians over the next year.
The basic needs of Nigeria, according to Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (COVID), are food, health, housing, clothing and security. ASCAB said the proposal by the Federal Government may appear beautiful in letters, but in reality has failed to address the class variables. It said the plan does not seek to harness the potentials of Nigerians but rather continue to make the country a satellite of developed nations, leaving local resources at the mercy of local and international exploiters. The plan has not created a paradigm shift from a dependent neo-colonial economy, the Alliance said.
“A fundamental fiasco in the proposal is the lack of commitment to bridge the wide gap between the rich and the poor, address the skewed distribution of wealth, especially public resources, address socio-economic inequalities and eliminate the conditions that sustain financial insecurity of millions of Nigerians”, ASCAB leaders said at the presentation of its alternative economic blueprint on Tuesday.
ASCAB is a coalition of some 80 civil society groups spread across Nigeria including the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). ASCAB is led by prominent lawyer, Femi Falana who is the chair. The NLC President, AyubaWaba and TUC President QuadriOlaleye are co-chairs of the group.
The group said one of the major challenges facing Nigeria is the lack of consultation and inclusion in budget conception and implementation adding that budgets have become yearly rituals that make no impact in the lives of many Nigerians whose needs, fears and aspirations were not considered before the budgets are drawn. “The budgets reflect the limited wisdom of those in power, without any consideration for the critical sector, which is the working class and the other main beneficiaries of the budget.”
ASCAB said the index employed in drawing the economic plan relied heavily on statistics and figures, rather than on people and their living experiences.
“There is wrong assumption that the government can assume what the people want without consultation with the people. There is a tradition in Nigeria that substitutes the consciousness of Nigerians with the consciousness of those in power. This creates huge contradictions in budget implementation leaving the people at the short end of the stick,” ASCAB said.
It observed that the 2020 planalso fails to define in concrete terms the mechanism for the elimination of corruption in terms of contract inflation, peddling of influence, excessive financial privileges of public officials and centralized planning which undermines indigenous creativity and potentials.
ASCAB said “The budget is the main mechanism for directing and targeting public investment, and to a large extent, also private investment, towards enabling human and socioeconomic development in any polity; and channelling utilization of public and societal wealth for the common good, in the interest of all citizens, and with a view to achieving the ultimate goal of equitable distribution of wealth, and social inclusion and equity in the society.”
The group observed that contrary to this broad underlying principle, and directly in sharp contrast to the intent of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [as amended], the budgetary process has been undertaken in a manner that promotes social exclusion, enhances and drives inequality, and ultimately undermines human development.
It noted for instance with respect to the Appropriation Amendment Act 2020 recently passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Buhari, that the practice wherein Appropriation Bills of the NNPC, CBN, NIMASA, NPA, FAAN and about 60 other federal agencies are usually purportedly “passed” separately after the President has laid the national estimates before the National Assembly, and in most cases, after the President has assented to the national budget, is fundamentally unconstitutional.
While calling for an end to the illegal and unconstitutional practice of running multiple budgets by the Federal Government and all Federal agencies ASCAB demands for the immediate publication of the Appropriation Bills of all Federal agencies. Furthermore, ASCAB calls on the National Assembly to embark on urgent review of the budgets of all federal agencies to reflect the state of the nation in view of the challenge of Covid 19.
The ESP is driven by the neo-liberal mantra of increasing revenue, utilising increased revenue to increase investment and spending in the economy, and by so doing, stimulate growth which will not eliminate poverty.
Nigeria has had decades of annual GDP growth rates averaging 6 to 8% per annum, without concomitant reduction in poverty. As a matter of fact, during these decades (1999 and 2016) of high economic growth rates, poverty and unemployment rates increased exponentially, while the housing condition declined drastically, reaching a whopping 17 million housing deficit by 2015. Other observations raised by ASCAB included:
The bane of our national development process over the decades has been the associated problems of inequality and corruption with the non-inclusion of citizens in decision making. There is the need for a people-driven equitable and socially inclusive governance.
The Action Program summarisedbelow is needed for the people to survive Covid-19 and beyond. It could easily be funded from oil income, taxation, the return of looted funds and the N5.4tn owed to AMCON.