Governments around the world today are faced with enormous challenges and these challenges seem to be ubiquitous; they come as extra hidden packages. The more we pursue developmental goals and good governance the more these challenges continue to rear their ugly heads.
However, I will be drawing lessons from the south-eastern country of Malawi to espouse and analyze some of the common challenges we face as countries within the continent. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 with an estimated population of more than 13,900,000. Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi's largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu.
Nigeria and Malawi have very little things in common asides issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS, leadership, etc. Malawian President stated that her cash-strapped government will sell the presidential jet controversially bought by her predecessor. The president succeeded late president Bingu wa Mutharika after he died from a heart attack in April. President Joyce championed a national austerity drive which includes cost-cutting schemes and getting rid of government luxury vehicles and the plane, which are symbols of power and status in this poor nation where nearly 40% of the 13 million people scrape by on less than a dollar a day.
Couple of days ago, the Nigerian president presented the 2013 annual budget to the National Assembly. While many praised the executive for the timely budget presentation and also acknowledged the improvement in budgetary allocations. This time education got the highest, a very laudable step taken by the FG towards education in recent times. However, many have been quick to notice that while many countries of the world are taking austerity measures very seriously, Nigeria’s case seems to be the reverse. Allocations like feeding in the ASO ROCK, fire extinguishers and refreshment have over a billion each in allocation. This has prompted more and more questions about the need for government to make tougher austerity measures. Malawi as a country that relies on exportation of agricultural produce and foreign donation for economic gains; and have in recent times taken measures to cut cost. President Joyce Banda recently announced a 30% pay cut for her and the VP. Presidential pay cut is of course not new to Nigeria; late president Umar Yar’adua also did slash his pay as president, however, I think making meaningful austerity measures goes beyond pay cuts but looking into other aspect of governance where expenses can be whittled down meaningfully. Although, economically and demographically both countries cannot be compared, nevertheless, there’s need for Countries in Africa and particularly Nigeria to begin to cut down on unnecessary spending and acquisitions. A thorough job must be done by the national assembly to ensure that allocations must be justifiable, with an end result of enhancing productivity in all sectors.
It is also quintessential to note that Nigeria operates an incremental budget, which in my opinion needs to be checked. More disturbing is the rising recurrent expenditure which the budget depicts; many countries are working towards downsizing civil service workforce thereby making it more efficient and effective. Good governance isn’t tied to how many individuals government can employ into its coffers but creating an enabling environment where citizens can thrive in whatever economic engineering they engage and where foreign investors can operate without impediments or negative forces.
FINALLY, issues of domestic debt seem to be on the front burner, the legislative and executive arms are still battling to reach an agreement on what benchmark the 2013 budget should be hinged. Running a deficit economy (i.e spending above earnings), excess crude account, sovereign wealth funds, etc, are issues that will remain with us for a while, until something fundamental is done to correct the way our economy is been managed. Based on the last release by the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s domestic debt stood at over six trillion naira, which is very disturbing. There must a balance as to how we manage our God given resources and it is never a must to operate an incremental budget on a yearly basis. As a matter of information Niger republic, Nigeria’s close door neighbor has proposed a budget for 2013 seven percent (7%) lower than the previous. Governments at all levels must do everything possible to cut down spending at all cost and there must be justification for every penny spent- ACCOUNTABILITY!