The Recurring Challenge of Capital Spending
Having already commented on the revenue side of the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, we now look at the expenditure and financing projections.
Total FGN spending is projected to rise from N7.44trn in this year’s budget to N8.60trn in 2018. The outturn of N3.10trn in H1 2017, according to the Budget Office of the Federation, was well short of the target of N3.72trn: an overshoot on salaries was more than outweighed by an absence of capital spending.
This sad state of affairs on the capital side can be explained by the delayed passage of the 2017 budget, which was only signed off in June.
The projection of N2.38trn capital spending in 2018 looks fanciful when we consider the slow growth of revenue collection.
On the recurrent side, personnel spending is forecast to rise from N1.88trn to N2.12trn. The outturn in H1 2017 was N1.49trn.
The FGN again allocates N350bn for its special interventions, unchanged from 2017 (although there had been no disbursements by end-June). These are essentially the programmes pledged in the 2015 election campaign.
Those concerned about the vulnerability of oil output to sabotage in the Niger Delta will be pleased to learn that the framework sets aside N65bn for the presidential amnesty programme in 2018, rising to N70bn in each of the two following years.
We note the allocations in the paper of N220bn in each of the three years towards a sinking fund to retire local contractors’ bonds. We are unsure whether these relate to the mountain of arrears accumulated under the previous administration, unearthed in late 2016 and estimated by different sources at +/- N3trn.
The deficit in 2018 is projected at N2.95trn, equivalent to 2.6% of forecast GDP and 52.2% of forecast FGN revenue. The framework has 2018 as the low point fiscally in the period: thereafter the core ratios improve, supported by stronger revenue collection and GDP growth.
There is an interesting section drawing attention to the negative consequences of Nigeria’s transition to middle income status in 2014. The FGN is losing access to the soft-loan windows of partners such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and will have to find alternative funding for the substantial vaccination programme. It is therefore working on an aid transition strategy to cushion the impact.