The Senate has begun debate on the general principles of the 2020 Appropriation Bill of N10.33 trillion.
The lawmakers took turns debating the Bill at plenary on Wednesday. Out of the N10.33 trillion in the 2020 Budget, N556.7 billion is for Statutory Transfer, while N2. 7 trillion is for Debt Service.
Contributing, Sen. Gabriel Suswam (PDP-Benue) said that the budget was very ambitious as it was intended to address the infrastructural deficit. He said that the economy had contracted to a level that the senate needed to critically address some very “germane and pregnant issues.”
“Along with the appropriation submitted by the President, is a financial bill that has five thematic areas. I am worried about the area that talks about revenue. I am worried about that because Value Added Tax (VAT) that had been moved from 5 percent to 7.5 percent is one of the sources that we intend to raise revenue to finance critical areas of education and health” he said.
“In the same budget that we proposed 2.93 Gross Domestic Product Growth, we have also taken these policies, policies that will further contract the economy. This is because if we say that VAT will be moved from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, the exemptions from the VAT are small because most of the aggregate economic activities are small business enterprises” he added.
He explained that most of the small business enterprises would be unable to address the issue of 7.5 percent VAT.
“The 7.5 percent VAT is on the high side and has exemption only on food items” he explained.
On sectoral allocations, Suswam said that the money for education and health was insufficient. He added that to address infrastructure from a holistic point of view, “outside of roads and power; education and health allocation should have also been enhanced.”
Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation Sen. Jibril Barau (APC-Kano) said that the sectoral allocation of N262 billion to Works and Housing showed that the government was serious about providing the necessary infrastructure to drive and sustain the economy.
He said that the government was serious to actualise its long term objective of diversifying the economy.
Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP-Enugu) said that he was pleased with the emphasis on road sector development and the marginal increase in Human Rights Commission’s allocation.
“These are indeed very commendable steps. The President has done his best in the presentation of the Appropriation Bill under Section 81 of the Constitution.
“Now the job is left for us to consider and make appropriate adjustments. We cannot blame the President or anybody else to fail in this responsibility of adjusting the proposal where necessary. Once the budget is passed, the rest is implementation.”
Ekweremadu said that to ensure full implementation of the budget, revenue generation must be emphasised and certainly not at the expense of ordinary Nigerians. He said that there was a need to block all leakages.
“I am happy that the Federal Government is now clear on its position on IPPIS that government agencies must be captured under IPPIS.”
He further said that there was a need to show more interest in mineral sector development.
“We need to remove so much emphasis on oil and gas and see what we can do to take advantage of all the deposits of solid minerals in the country.”
Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe said the budget was a budget of taxation going by the proposed increase in VAT from 5 to 7. 5 percent.
In his remarks, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan mentioned that the debate on the budget would continue on Thursday.