05 February 2015, Abuja – The Federal Government has more than halved capital expenditure to less than 10 per cent of the 2015 budget spending, axing badly needed infrastructure investment due to the collapse in the price of oil, the country’s main source of revenue, according to the full budget submitted to the national Assembly.
Even though government’s capital spending seldom materialises as planned, shelving projects such as port upgrades and roads will only perpetuate the inefficiencies that have plagued Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy for decades.
The document, seen by Reuters, puts capital expenditure at N387 billion ($2 billion), or 8.9 per cent of total spending of N4.357 trillion.
This is a significant drop from the 2014 spending plans when capex, or capital expenditure, accounted for 23.7 per cent of projected government outlays.
It is also only just over half the N634 billion that Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her December budget presentation, said would go on capital expenditure and related items.
Director General, Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogwu, said the reductions were the direct result of the halving in the last six months of the price of crude, which normally accounts for 80 per cent of the cash flowing in to state coffers.
“The capex was severely affected by the huge reduction in revenue,” Okogu told Reuters, adding that it was easier to wield the axe on infrastructure projects than Nigeria’s notoriously bloated bureaucracy.
He said wages were difficult to cut and “you cannot reduce staff numbers overnight.”
Despite the overall capital expenditure reduction, spending on military equipment was set to rise slightly, reflecting the need for weapons to counter Boko Haram Islamist militants in the northeast.
The National Assembly is expected to start discussing the budget later this month and it is likely to be passed some time in March, regardless of who wins the presidential election on February 14, though supplements could be added. One such could be for military equipment if Nigeria secures a loan of up to $1 billion, which President Goodluck Jonathan requested last year.
The oil-price slump has hammered Nigeria, whose currency has hit a series of record lows against the dollar in the last three months despite the central bank burning through 20 percent of its reserves to prop it up.
The government’s benchmark oil price for this year’s budget is $65 a barrel, a figure the finance ministry says will not be changed despite crude falling as low as $45 a barrel in January.
As well as knocking this year’s overall growth forecast, the impact is being felt in the construction sector, where sources say infrastructure projects that were already moving at a snail’s pace have been put on ice for this year.
Construction firms have halted work on roads, railways and bridges, firing up to a third of workers and maintaining only skeleton crews.