'A budget for jobs and inclusive growth'

BASHIR ADIGUN
Last updated 09:00 20/12/2013

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Nigeria's finance minister presented lawmakers on Thursday with a proposed budget of 4.642 trillion naira ($36 billion) for 2014, saying it was lower than last year because of rampant oil theft and lower customs duties.

Minister Ngozi Ikonjo-Iweala said the proposal includes capital expenditure of just 1.1 trillion naira, 27 per cent of the total, with the rest going to running the government.

She set expected government revenue for 2014 at 3.73 trillion naira, a deficit of 1.9 per cent of GDP.

The budget for Africa's biggest oil producer is based on oil selling at US$77.5 ($94.5) a barrel, a compromise between the executive's proposal of $74 and lawmaker's demands for a $79 a barrel benchmark.

The dispute had delayed the budget for weeks.

"It's a budget for jobs and inclusive growth," Ikonjo-Iweala, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), told reporters.

"The budget supports policies that will continue to push agriculture, manufacturing, investment so that our youths can have modern jobs."

Last year's budget was US$29.3 billion ($35.8 billion).

Despite economic growth averaging 7 per cent over the past decade, the government's own statistics show the number of Nigerians living from hand to mouth has increased since 2004.

Thursday's presentation comes the day after the ruling People's Democratic Party lost its majority in the House of Representatives when 37 legislators defected.

President Goodluck Jonathan's party still retains a majority in the senate.

It was unclear how the passage of the budget might be affected by the defections, coming the day before legislators break for the Christmas holidays. Five state governors defected last month.

The defectors cited factionalism and divisions in the party, which Jonathan is accused of fueling with an unannounced desire to run for re-election in 2015.

Many in his party feel he could destabilise the country by not following an unwritten rule to rotate power between the Muslim north and Christian south.

Jonathan, a Christian southerner, also is seen as mismanaging the response to an Islamic uprising in the northeast that has killed thousands.

Africa's most populous nation of more than 160 million people also confronts ongoing deadly ethnic-religious clashes in central Nigeria and renewed militancy and oil theft in the southern Niger delta.

Experts estimate Nigeria is losing as much as 200,000 barrels of oil a day to thefts believed to profit some politicians.

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- AP

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