Atiku hits Buhari, says ‘2019 budget failed to address current economic realities’

The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 general elections, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar has claimed the 2019 budget that was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari fails to address current realities.

In an article titled “My Takeaways from Budget 2019” made available to journalists in Abuja, Atiku explained that  “the proposed budget as presented is fundamentally flawed. It deliberately ignores and fails to address current realities and pretends, as Mr. President asserts, ‘we are on the right direction’. On the contrary, the 2019 budget is built on very shaky foundation and makes very generous, often wild and untenable assumptions which pose significant risks to its implementation.

Atiku who warned that it will disservice to the country if fundamental flaws are ignored noted that,  ” several inaccurate claims litter the budget document – all, I think, in an attempt for Mr. President to whitewash the regime and hide their monumental failure to improve, even minimally, the welfare and living standards of much of the population. I see the rhetoric of ‘inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth’ as no more than an amplification of the APC-led government’s renewed propaganda to hoodwink the citizens into believing that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

“Few of these claims by Mr. President are that ‘we have recorded several successes in economic management’, that ‘the economy has recovered from recession’, that  ‘foreign capital inflows including direct and portfolio investments (have) responded to improved economic management and that ‘we have had a sustained accretion to foreign exchange reserves’ etc, he added.

According to the former vice president, “in reality, the economy is yet to recover from the 2016/2017 recession as it remains severely stressed, extremely fragile and vulnerable to external shocks. GDP growth declined from 2.11% in 2017 to 1.9% in Q1 and to 1.5% in Q2 of 2018. In Q3 of 2018 there was only a marginal increase of 0.3% to 1.8%”.

He also averred that, “In its current form, the local economy is not dynamic enough to journey to their so-called next level.  For the year 2019, a general slowdown in the real growth rates of economic activity in both the oil and non-oil sectors has been projected at 1.9% by the World Bank. This rate is well below the 2019 budget projection of 3.01% and is not enough to create the needed jobs for the growing population of the country or for the attainment of the SDGs.

“As a sign of the weakness of the economy, the rate of unemployment has increased from 18.8% in 2017 to 23.1% in Q3 of 2018. Today, close to 20 million people are unemployed compared to 7.2 million people in 2014. These high rates of unemployment represent both a significant distortion in the economic system and a lost opportunity for critical national development and could potentially threaten social stability, he said.

He said, “Sadly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is limited and is declining. In Q3, 2018 capital inflows were US$2.855.21 billion showing a decrease of 48.21% compared to Q2 2018 and 31.12% decrease compared to Q3 2017. Indeed, its current level is the lowest since Q2, 2017. Value of Foreign Portfolio recorded at US$1.7 billion represents a decrease of 58.2% compared to Q2 2018. It also represents a 37.7% decrease compared to the Q3 of 2017.

According to the PDP candidate “it is very significant to note that capital importation in 2014 (Q3) was US$6.5 billion and in 2018 (Q3) US$2.9 billion. This shows US$3.6 billion or 55% decline since the regime came into power.

“So, contrary to Mr. President’s assertion, capital importation actually shrinks! In reality Mr. President should expect no less. It is a fact that under his watch and resulting from his actions or inactions, investor confidence in the economy has waned like never before in Nigeria’s history.  Nigeria remains an uncompetitive economy as demonstrated by the recent World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Competitiveness Index which positions Nigeria as 115th of 140 Countries.  The Report shows that Nigeria has moved three places down, contrary to Mr. President’s claim that ‘we are moving in the right direction’.  Nigeria remains one of the most difficult places to do business as evidenced by the massive outflows of capital in recent times, Atiku said.

He also argued that, “Even Mr. President’s acclaimed successes in agriculture can be interrogated.  In spite of the so-called ‘increased investment across the entire value chain from agricultural inputs to farming and ultimately, food processing’, agricultural growth is well below historical levels.  The growth in agricultural production declined from 3.48% in Q3 2015 to 1.91% in Q3 2018. Similarly, in 2018, growth has been declining from 3% in Q1, to 1.19% in Q2 and 1.91% in Q3. There is little evidence to show that ‘increased investment’ in agriculture has yielded positive results.

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