Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization working to promote socio-economic development in the Niger Delta, has called on the Cross River State government to ensure that the state’s 2022 budget prioritizes spending on the social sector.
The organization made the call Tuesday, during a One Day Consultative Forum for the 2022 Proposed Budget organized by the Department of Budget Monitoring and Evaluation in Calabar.
In an eight-point memorandum presented to the Forum, the organisation’s Programme Officer, Fiscal Reforms and Anti-corruption, Faith Paulinus, highlighted the need for massive injection of funds to the social sectors of the budget, especially health, education, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
The memorandum read: “With Covid19, these sectors were a top priority to governments all over the world in 2020 and 2021, but we did not see Cross River State according them that same priority level. For example, the sectoral performance report for 2020 shows that the social sector got a paltry 8.83 percent of the overall capital budget while the economic and administrative sectors got 49.63 percent and 35.46 percent respectively. Similarly, the mid-year performance report for 2021 shows that these important sectors have so far received zero capital allocation.”
The organisation noted that the said underfunding of the social sector was further disturbing considering that “a whooping N20bn or 8.3 percent of total budget size for 2021 was allocated to the office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, an office unknown to law,” urging the Forum to “carefully reconsider the proposals for the health, education and WASH sectors as they have serious implications for the current Covid19 response and recovery prospects, as no one can tell what 2022 will bring.”
The memorandum, however, lauded the state government for kick-starting the citizens’ consultation on next year’s budget early in the budget cycle, and expressed hope that the consultation would be decentralized to ensure broad participation of the state’s citizens.
It also commended the state government for reverting to a more realistic budget size in 2021 compared to recent years, while urging the state to continue the trend of realistic budgeting in the 2022 budget.