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Senate President, Bukola Saraki,
yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari, pointblank, during presentation of
estimates of the 2017 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National
Assembly, that there is hardship in the country.

Saraki, who doubles as the chairman
of the National Assembly, said the purpose of a budget is to ease economic
pressure on the people, most especially, the poor in his welcome remarks at the
budget presentation session, yesterday.

“The 2017 budget assumes even a
greater significance, particularly in this time of recession.

“Mr. President, the feedback we get
from visits to our various constituencies is that there is hardship in the
land. We can see it and we can feel it. This situation, therefore, commands all
of us as government to a greater sense of urgency. We cannot work magic, but we
must continue to work the clock.

“Our people must see that the
singular preoccupation of government is the search for solution to the current
economic hardship; and the commitment to ease their burden. They don’t want to
know what political parties we belong, what language we speak or how we worship
God. They have trusted their fates into our hands, and they need us now more
than ever, to justify the trust that they have reposed on us.”

“The people of Nigeria will pardon
us if we do some things wrong. But, they will not forgive us if we do nothing.
And, that is why, Mr. President, the two chambers have taken a position
whatever may be our differences, or opinions on issues of the economy, we will
all work with one common purpose for this reason.”

The Senate President expressed
delight that the 2017 budget presentation was coming early this year than that
of 2016.

Moreover, he said the the 2017
appropriation bill has benefited from greater consultation and cooperation from
the executive arm of government and the legislature.

Saraki said the National Assembly
recognises the fact that the country cannot depend solely on the public sector
to get out of the current recession.

“It is, therefore, critical that we
mainstream private sector business and investment in the economy. To achieve
this, we must make it much easier and efficient for people to invest and do
business in our country.

“Further to this, we are also aware
that, if we must attract private investments to play a central role in our
economic recovery efforts, we must make deliberate efforts to market Nigeria as
an attractive brand through a very robust and highly coordinated process of
engagements. This effort must necessarily start with injecting confidence in
the market through clarity and consistency of policies. We must speak the right
language and show that we are open to and ready for legitimate business.

“This has led to unacceptably high
rate of abandonment of projects and distortions in Nigeria’s economic
planning.”

“The problem is that most often,
the recurrent component of the budget is implemented to an appreciable level,
but, the capital component execution is very low.  It is crystal clear that the capital
component of the 2016 budget cannot realistically be implemented for only six
months period considering the time required for procurement processes and the
raising of the revenue including loans by government. Except something is done,
this will result in yet another failed budget.”

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