Abuja Chamber Policy Centre holds roundtable on 2019 national budget …Stakeholders calls for review of BPP Act
By Lubem Gena, Abuja
The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) through its Policy Advocacy Centre (PAC) today held the first Organised Private Sector (OPS) engagement with the federal government on the 2019 national budget.
Speaking at the event, the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Dr. Ben Akabueze explained the underlining key assumptions of the 2019 budget and emphasised that the government was interested in stimulating the productivity of the private sector in order to grow the economy and create job opportunities.
According to him, the government has also opened up the Mobile Money sector to the private players in order to bring about financial inclusion stating that even as the government has genuine intentions in faithfully implementing appropriated budget, several challenges such as sharp practices by some power centres, connivance among the civil servants and obsolete laws have always naturally slowed down every intended forward movement.
He regretted that in the past, government was not properly engaging with the private sector but having realised the lapses, in all future engagements, the ACCI will be made to be co-organiser of the budget consultative forum.
He particularly expressed worry at the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act which does not make for expeditious execution of government projects hence it is loaded with encumbrances that slows down capital budget implementation activities.
In his keynote address, the ACCI President, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode stressed the need for a collaborative working relationship between the private sector and the government noting that the era of hostility against each other is long gone and both should be partners in progress.
He advocated for a seamless budgeting process that would make for the continuity of programmes and projects maintaining that, for that purpose to be achieved there must be a clear cut policy and that, it is one of the reasons PAC was formed.
Prince Kayode emphasised that ACCI will continue to play its critical role of coordinating all the players in the economy in the territory and even beyond as part of its efforts to create wealth and expand the economic participation of the people.
Prince Kayode also used the occasion to make case for the Budget office of the federation and that of the National Assembly to work hand-in-hand to have a budget that will meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
The co-chair of the roundtable and former Director-General of Bureau for Public Sector Reform, Dr. Joe Abah expressed worry at the system which have made for budget padding to have occurred in the country just as he called on the Executive and the Legislature to bridge the disconnect between them and work for the common good of the nation.
Upon suggestion, he urged Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that are genuinely interested in budgeting to take up the responsibility of seeking interpretation from the court of competent jurisdiction who, among the legislature and the executive has the square responsibility to budget for the nation.
NACCIMA National Vice President, Otunba Dele Oye also made a passionate case for the federal government to look into the funding mechanism of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Otunba Dele said the issue has constituted a vlig in the wheel of the economic progress of the national hence those who try to go through the conventional banks always have a sad story to tell after been entangled into loans.
A former Minister in several capacities, Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong in his contribution charged the participants to ensure that the BPP Act is amended hence it has proved to be an impediment to national development, a suggestions which was generally agreed upon as one of the necessary steps to get capital budget implementation executed without any let or hindrance.
Participants from the event were drawn from the academia, civil society, policy centres, trade groups, the media, West African chambers of commerce, National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, among several others. They all agreed that budgeting system in the country is made unworkable by powers that be.
In the final resolution, it was emphasised that the government should, as a matter of urgency learn to engage more constructively with the OPS before before framing the national budget or taking major economic decisions since some of them have proved to be Draconian to the operations and growth of private sector.