The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) response to the budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday is definitely worth another look just for the sheer dumbness of the opposition party’s statement.
If Nigerians were hoping that the PDP would give an alternate vision; a well thought out second narrative of the future different from that espoused by the APC, then the statement signed by Olisa Metuh has proved conclusively that the opposition party is not ready for leadership.
Olisa Metuh said in his statement that the N6.8 trillion budget proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari is “a big fraud and executive conspiracy tailored towards mortgaging the future of the nation” because the government intends to borrow a lot of money to finance the budget.
If the PDP had any one thinking under its umbrella, it probably would have gotten an economist to argue about why the debt is unsustainable. In the 2015 budget, the past PDP government put borrowing at N1.04 trillion (minus the extra half a trillion that had to be borrowed to pay marketers), but Buhari has said for 2016, Nigeria will borrow N2.22 trillion. For the PDP, debt last year was good, but it’s bad this year. Worse still, they didn’t give any reason why this is so.
President Buhari argued in his speech that the deficit, which is equivalent to 2.16% of Nigeria’s GDP, will take our overall debt profile to 14% of our GDP. This is still a very manageable figure. South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio was 39% in 2014; Ghana’s was 67%; Brazil was 59% and China was 41%. With Nigeria’s rebated GDP, ours is 14%.
A good argument which the PDP could have made was this one made a few days ago by economist Nonso Obikili, who said a better index to use would be debt to revenue ratio instead of debt to GDP ratio. But the PDP was too lazy to argue properly or borrow from people who know.
“We have it on good authority that this is the first in the series of APC borrowings which would leave the future generation of Nigerians under the burden of huge debts after four years,” the PDP said. On whose good authority please? That’s another PDP allegation without any proof of how it came about the claim.
Hear Metuh again: “There has never been any known economy in the world where government deliberately mortgage the future of its nation by borrowing excessively to finance partisan interests while hiding under bogus welfare programmes. This is moreso important as the APC in reeling out their bogus campaign promises never informed Nigerians that they would mortgage their future through excessive borrowing.”
As we have shown above, Nigeria’s borrowing is not excessive. More advanced economies and emerging economies have higher debt to GDP ratio. But even more silly is the argument by Metuh that the APC is trying to finance “partisan interests”. At no point has the APC or Buhari claimed that its promises are for APC states alone. Metuh should have tried to explain what the PDP means by that.
PDP further said that the projects listed by the President are “phantom capital projects” to be used “as cover and conduit to syphon funds”. Evidence? None.
Then this: “By all standards, the 2016 budget, the first major economic policy outing of this government, is completely unrealistic and duplicitously embellished with impractical predications, a development that confirms fears by economy watchers and investors that this administration is obviously ill-equipped for governance.”
It is possible that the PDP is correct and the budget is unrealistic and embellished. But the PDP has to tell us how it arrived at that conclusion. The President stated clearly how he intends to fund his budget, what he intends to use the borrowing for, and gave several other crucial details which will be queried and analysed in the coming days. The PDP could have waited but Metuh felt being an opposition spokesman means speaking first and thinking later. Meanwhile I thought the PDP was talking about having a shadow cabinet; is this the best that the shadow cabinet could produce?
The conclusion from this statement is that Metuh did not read the president’s speech. Else he wouldn’t have said this:
“Furthermore, it is instructive to note the official endorsement of Mr. President to the devaluation of the naira as against his campaign promise of firming up the value of our currency even to the much vaunted one naira to one dollar. Does it mean that Mr President lied his way to power, or that he did not understand the complexities of governance when he was making his false promises to Nigerians?”
PDP and Metuh need to tell us where Pres. Buhari endorsed devaluation. It’s not in that speech. The closest the president came was when he said, “I am however assured by the Governor of Central Bank that the Bank is currently fine-tuning its foreign exchange management to introduce some flexibility and encourage additional inflow of foreign currency to help ease the pressure.”
How is that an “official endorsement?”
Finally, and this may be the most senseless of all. Metuh said in future there is a “need to regulate campaign promises so that we will not end up with a government that promises to climb Mount Everest with bare hands and end up mortgaging our future with orchestrated borrowings.”
A campaign regulation council,perhaps? Goodness! Sane PDP minds need to come out and disown Metuh quickly.