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Oborevwori: Glimpses Of Hope In The 2024 Delta Proposed Budget
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Oborevwori: Glimpses Of Hope In The 2024 Delta Proposed Budget

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By Monday Uwagwu

Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, recently in Asaba, presented the state’s 2024 proposed budget to the Delta State House of Assembly (DTHA) for consideration and approval.

Christened the Budget of Hope and Optimism, the estimates showed the clear intentions of the administration in the fiscal year 2024. Overall, the budget envelope of N714 billion, is made up of a proposed capital outlay of N397.9billion, which tallies at 56 per cent of the entire package, and N316.6billion, representing 44 per cent of the total outlay, as recurrent expenditure.

In all, the 2024 proposed budget of N714billion is some N94.9 billion short of the state’s 2023 budget of N809.4 billion.This pans out at 12 per cent drop on the 2023 budget, year –on-year.

Evidently, the 2024 budget as proposed, has some salient points of great significance to it, not the least of which is the fact that it is the first-the very first-in the history and life of the Oborevwori administration.

As the first such document of intention to be wholly prepared by the administration, it, therefore, represents an indicator as to which direction, going forward, the government intends to take the state, and what, in that regard, would constitute its priorities. In one simple sentence, therefore, the proposed budget, is the trafficator in the special motorized vehicle with which it intends to drive its development agenda for the citizens. In this sense, it is the first budget for which the Oborevwori government will take full responsibility for its implementation since its inauguration into office on May 29, 2023.

A core element of the overall importance of the budget is the significant decrease-in terms of sheer size-of the proposal, in relation to the state’s approved budget for the outgoing fiscal year (2023).

This is a historic development in the annals of the state, where the tradition had always been for the current budget to be bigger, at least in sheer size, than that of the preceding year.

The decrease, by almost N95billion, against the backdrop of hyperinflation in the overall economy, speaks to one thing-the strident desire of the administration to enthrone shrewdness and compactness in the management of its finances, mainly by aligning needs, reordering priorities and enhancing cost-efficiency.

Governor Oborevwori himself captured this emphatically, when, at the budget presentation event at the DTHA, he said, inter alia, “This budget is emphatic on keeping our expenditure within revenue limits( a definite strive at attaining a balanced budget), thus reducing our debt profile and ensuring that we do not build new inflationary pressure through extra budgetary funding.”

This is quite alluring in the light of our contemporary national experience, where fiscal discipline is often sacrificed on the altar of extra-budgetary expenditure that, almost always, makes budgets go awry and effective planning a virtual impossibility.

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There is a third element of great importance, if not outright appeal, in the proposed budget; this has to do with the encouraging historic efforts at cost-sizing the overhead element of the budget.

For instance, there is an appreciable decrease in the overhead cost in the proposal (N106.5billion), in relation to that of the preceding year which tagged at N116.2 billion.

This shows a drop of approximately N10billion. By the same token, there is also a noticeable drop in the allocation to contingency from N13.3billion in 2023, to roughly N5billion in the 2024 estimates. The same goes for grants and contributions (from N14.7billion in 2023 to N10billion in the 2024 estimates, thus depicting a fall of about N4billion) and capital vote for Administration (from N43.6billion to N22.7 billion, showing a huge reduction of almost N 22billion, year-on-year). All of these proposals attest to the desire of the Oborevwori administration to make the cost of governance more cost-efficient.

This initiative of the state government is particularly significant in the light of the persistent public clamour in that direction and the fact of the sky-high inflation rate, which, ordinarily, would have made an administration less committed to the principle of cost-efficiency, propose estimates in excess of the provisions in the budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

But that is not all that there is to the significant elements of hope in the budget as proposed.

In Africa, it was long said that the farmer who eats up all of his seedlings has only made a statement of lack of interest in farming the next season. Governor Oborevwori, the street-wise leader, knows the critical import of this wise saying of our forebears, hence he has placed adequate store on effective planning for the sustainable development of the state, over the medium and long hauls.

This is the main reason that the Oborevwori budget, as proposed, is equally important on account of the fact of its adequate slant on capital expenditure in relation to the recurrent segment of it. By devoting 56 per cent (N397.9billion of the N714billion total package) to the capital vote, the Oborevwori government has demonstrated emphatically that, irrespective of the necessity to budget handsomely for the ever rising recurrent segment of expenditure, there is an overriding need to continue to fund the capital segment on a scale that would ensure the steady supply of basic infrastructure for the accelerated growth and development of the state and for the benefit of the people by whose grace it holds office.

Pointedly, it is important to drawdown here and now, the import of the assignment and consignment of the proposed budget, especially with regard to the capital segment of it.

The Oborevwori administration, in order to keep faith with its desire to prioritise the sustainable provision of critical infrastructure, especially roads, proposes that N229.4 billion of the N397billion allotted to capital expenditure be devoted to the vital economic sector, which is the engine room for the sustainable development of the society. Interestingly, the government proposes that, of the N229billion, an impressive N150billion-more than half of it-be tagged to the provision of roads and infrastructure.

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The direct and natural interpretation derivable herefrom is that, aside of the high-brow flyover, clover leaf and road expansion projects in and around Warri and its environs, the state is set to have more viable road and related projects across the state in the coming year. This is good news, having regard to the place of infrastructure, particularly roads, in the sustainable development of any society, Delta inclusive. In one word, this means hope.

However, the quality attention, by way of due priority, accorded the capital segment of the proposed budget has not come at the cost of total neglect of the recurrent segment, particularly as it relates to the interest of the workforce in the public sector.

This is because one of the most significant elements of the proposed budget has to do with the development of human capital and the commitment of the government to the welfare of its nearly 60,000-strong workforce.

This is evident in the increase in the Social Contribution (workers’ housing and contributory health fund, for instance), from N8billion in the 2023 fiscal year budget to approximately N10billion in the proposed estimates, and the significant jerk up of the provision for workers’ emoluments from about N110billion in 2023 to N150 billion in the 2024 proposal. This shows a huge increase of approximately 37 per cent and is pegged on the proactiveness of the administration not to be caught napping, in the event of a new national wage regime coming into effect in the new year, since the current N30,000 minimum wage policy would run full cycle by March end 2024, and a new policy come into being on April 1, 2024.

The direct meaning of this stated intention of the government is that the public sector workers have nothing, absolutely nothing, to worry about, regarding whether they would get paid, from the onset, the envisaged new wage regime.

While it is true that budgets are, in effect, statements of intention, the proactive action of the Delta State Government, under the watch of Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, by the making of adequate provision for the likely upward review of the existing minimum wage in the new year goes to one effect-right value for the men and women, who, as public officers, drive its MORE agenda, and, hence remain a core factor in the variables that determine the tempo and quality of the development of the state, across all strata. In a way, the proactive action of the administration in this regard also finds eloquence in the desire of the government to prevent, far ahead of time, any issues that can create and or sustain industrial dispute which, if allowed to fester, can create industrial unrest in the public sector, which stakeholders in the state project, quite wisely, will want to avoid at all cost and by all means.

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By striving to resolve, ahead of time, anything that can distract it and hence, encumber its efficient delivery of services in line with its vow, the Oborevwori administration is not only giving vent to its desire for peace and security in the state, but also living out the critical import of the fourth pillar of its MORE agenda, which has to do with enhanced peace and security in the state. In fact, this desire for enhanced peace has long been etched in the public psyche by the government via its legion actions, including the inauguration of a galactic ensemble of Deltans into the Delta State Peace Advisory Council, and other initiatives it has had to take to erode unease in the state public service.

These initiatives include the payment of N10,000 per month per person to its nearly 60,000 workers over a three-month period, as a palliative to cushion the effects of the sudden removal of the subsidy on petrol by the Federal Government; the payment of promotion arrears to deserving public officers and the introduction of a new work roster that entitles each non-critical employee to be off work for at least twice a week; the support for the local governments in the state to obtain a N40billion loan facility for the liquidation of the arrears of the entitlements of retirees in the local government system, as well as the approval for the recruitment of more than 2,000 teaching and other staff into that system. All of these initiatives, which are revolutionary by their nature, have helped to define the character of the Oborevwori administration, particularly with regard to its store on its human capital resources.

And do you know what?
The government, pegged on its stated intentions in the 2024 proposed budget, is set to break new grounds in human capital development, not only by timeously handing workers their due, but also by its stated intention to significantly enhance the scope of the government’s skill development programmes for youths and others in the state as a veritable strategy to curtail unemployment in the state.

All of these actions and intentions, in concept and practice, point poignantly in one direction-veritable hope for an assured better future for Deltans.

*Uwagwu is the retired General Manager of the Delta Printing and Publishing Company Limited (DPPCL), publishers of the Pointer Newspapers.

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