|Wikileaks:||View 02ABUJA1807 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||ECON PGOV EINV NI|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001807 SIPDIS DEPT PASS TO USTR FOR WHITAKER AND COLEMAN E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2012 TAGS: ECON, PGOV, EINV, NI SUBJECT: NIGERIA: 2002 BUDGET DEBATE REF: ABUJA 1194 1. (C) Summary and background. The Financial Year 2002 Budget entered the political spotlight last week as President Obasanjo met legislators and the Nigerian Federal Executive Council debated the subject. Obasanjo's original budget for USD $7.10 billion (848 billion Naira) went to the legislature last November. The National Assembly nearly doubled capital expenditures, passing a budget totaling USD $8.83 billion (1.06 trillion Naira) this March. In April, the Supreme Court decision on the allocation of oil revenue pronounced many of the revenue allocation mechanisms unconstitutional. In response to the Supreme Court decision on revenues, the GON set up two special committees: one to handle technical changes mandated by the decision; and a second to reach a political compromise to alleviate losses that oil-producing states will experience with their loss of 13% of off-shore oil revenues. Technical fixes are taking longer than expected and the latter committee is reportedly deadlocked because states without oil and other elements in the GON do not want to restore the losses to the oil-producing in this zero-sum exercise. 2. (C) Summary continued. On the expenditure side, Obasanjo has maintained a steady public campaign of refusing to spend all of the monies budgeted by the National Assembly. For their part, legislators protest the executive's "unconstitutional" refusal to execute the budget. A motion to impeach Obasanjo has been filed in the Senate. In the meantime, as contractors curtail operation, politicians within Obasanjo's own government want to open the spigot, particularly from the capital projects budget. They have formed a committee within the Federal Executive Council (GON Cabinet equivalent) purportedly to pressure the president to spend more. End Summary. --------------------------- The FEC Budget Review Panel --------------------------- 3. (U) The 2002 budget was the subject of discussion at the weekly FEC on June 5. The group set up seven-person Budget Review Panel headed by the Minister of State for Finance, Jubril Martins-Kuye. Ostensibly, the panel would review shortfalls in revenue earnings that might affect budget implementation. The GON has been disappointed by the lack of privatization of government parastatals like the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), where the GON had budgeted receipts of USD 1.7 billion. With the NITEL sale going sour and NEPA not ready to be placed on the auction block, the actual revenue will be a far cry from the budget projection. 4. (C) Other less charitable sources claim the Ministers are frustrated by the impasse with the legislature because they have been unable to spend as much as they would like, particularly during this election year. GON and donor sources estimate FY02 Naira 100 billion is available for capital projects but remains unspent, with Naira 25 billion still for projects from 2001. While some ministries have projects waiting for funding, others appear so frustrated by the time consuming process of gaining due process approval, a warrant from the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), and finally confirmation from the Central Bank that funds are available in their account that they have been unable to spend the money that is waiting there for them. As reported Ref (A), this new process helps to reduce the manner of and spending on questionable capital projects. It has the additional effect of slowing down the pace expenditures. A moderate reduction in velocity of spending or capital project may have a salutary effect, but too much of a slowdown encourages perception of inefficiency, may cause a reduction in social services and economic activity, thus engendering a degree of political anxiety. ------------------------------------------- Let Us Find A Common Ground -- Sounds Good ------------------------------------------- 5. (U) On June 4, President Obasanjo held a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to resolve differences on the 2002 budget. President Obasanjo explained to the legislators that inadequate revenue made implementing the budget impossible. Obasanjo asked both parties to prioritize the budget, dropping some items that could be agreed upon mutually. 6. (U) Media reports the leadership of the National Assembly and President Obasanjo were not able to agree on these priority areas. While President Obasanjo wanted to focus on Energy and Water Resources, the legislators insisted on Agriculture and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Though both parties were unable to agree on areas of priority, they agreed to continue meeting. 7. (C) Sources within the GON contend the legislators are less interested in increasing spending on federal capital projects than in winning control of special constituency funds for each member to spend in his or her district. Such funds -- or a variation of them -- have been proposed by the legislature continually since the National Assembly first began meeting in the summer of 1999. As in the past, the President reportedly opposed this fund. ------------------------------- Implement As Agreed - or else? ------------------------------- 8. (C) On June 6, several disgruntled senators proposed formal investigation of budget implementation from May 29, 1999 to the present. Senator Idris Abubakar said that the Senate would first ascertain whether the constitutional budget process has been violated, and whether or not President Obasanjo could be impeached because of such violations. Hearings on the motion have been fixed for Wednesday, June 12. (Comment: This is the latest of many impeachment "scares" Obasanjo has had to face during his tenure. Most likely this will fail like the others. However, a new development this time around is the apparent support Senate President Anyim has lent the proceedings. Anyim, who has been a staunch Obasanjo loyalist is apparently bitter that Obasanjo is not fully supporting Anyim,s bid to run for governor (Ebonyi) of his home state in 2003, instead Obasanjo seems to be backing the incumbent. End comment.) ------- Comment ------- 9. (C) No experienced political practitioner or observer expects the 2002 budget to be implemented as passed by the National Assembly. As in years past, the actual expenditure will most likely reflect the President,s aims. At the same time, most observers are surprised by how parsimonious the president has been, having expected him to loosen the purse strings more than he has to date. (We are hearing that government contracts are drying up and construction firms whose livelihood is government projects are preparing to lay-off workers and downsize.) 10. (C) Last week's public and private debates on the budget was the first such discussion since the Supreme Court Resource Allocation Decision in April. The results confirm the previous balance of power regarding implementation of the budget. President Obasanjo is in the driver seat and the National Assembly is the loquacious back seater. For the time being, Obasanjo has decided to hold tight the reins of spending, for commendable as well as baser political reasons. Capital projects show less expenditure compared to this time last year, while the unexpectedly high price of oil has brought in more funds. Thus, the short-term outlook for containing inflation and stabilizing expenditures has improved. However, pressure to spend will be unrelenting and there always exists the possibility that Obasanjo will give in when he believes the time is right politically. End Comment. ANDREWS
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