Unrest Looms As 2024 Budget Suffers Major Dislocations

Estimated read time 7 min read

There are indications that the Federal Government may be forced to review the 2024 Appropriation Act as recent developments in the foreign exchange market may have put the financial assumptions in complete disarray.

 

 

Sources close to the Finance Ministry told Vanguard that all the major components of the budget has been affected fundamentally by a drastic change in the budget parameters occasioned by the current foreign exchange market realities.

 

He pointed out that since the budget was passed into law, the official exchange rate benchmark which was N800/USD1 has moved up by almost 50 per cent, a development which has equally doubled both US dollar-based revenue and expenditure.

Consequently, the Naira values have gone up by about 100 per cent. The Senate approved the 2024 Appropriation Bill of N28.7 trillion, against the N27.5 trillion estimate presented by President Bola Tinubu.

The approved budget includes N1.7 trillion for statutory transfers, N8.7 trillion for recurrent expenditure, and N9.9 trillion for capital expenditure. All these figures have now been significantly altered by the development in the benchmark exchange rate which the Senate had moved from N750/ USD1 presented by President Tinubu, to N800/ USD1. Though the high level Finance Ministry official said he doesn’t have details of what is being done, he hinted that all the relevant ministries and government agencies are already working on what may become an amendment to the Act.

M a j o r budgetary dislocation
Financial experts who spoke to Vanguard also indicated that the barely six weeks old budget has suffered a major dislocation following the massive depreciation of the Naira across all foreign exchange market segments. According to their calculations, the implication on the 2024 budget is doubled fold with revenue and expenditure rising at the same time. However, they caution that a more prudent fiscal measure is needed to prevent the worsening of the current economic situation.

Rising revenue, expenditure
The major positive impact of the rising exchange rate, according to them, will be a rise in Naira revenue from the oil sector and other US Dollar-denominated revenues, with forecast at over N15 trillion, about 88 per cent higher than the N7.9 trillion actual budgeted amount. They also noted that this development may significantly reduce budget deficit to about N2.2 trillion from N9.2 trillion, if properly managed. But this is just one side of the development.

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They also see a possibility of this exchange rate revenue gain being wiped out by a corresponding rise in expenditure as a result of US dollar-denominated obligations such as debt servicing and general foreign exchange denominated expenditures in the budget. At a debt service expenditure budget of N8.25 trillion, they forecast a likely rise to over N16 trillion at current exchange rate of about N1650/ USD1. They also pointed out that a quantum leap in Naira revenue could spark off profligacy and fiscal indiscipline, which will erode the exchange gains. The impact of this fiscal misbehaviour, according to the analysts, will further compound inflationary pressures in the economy, which will also drive up cost of executing the capital expenditure budget significantly.

This development, according to them, will be further aggravated by labour union pressures for increases in minimum wage which is expected to drive up personnel cost component of the recurrent expenditure. Overall, the multiplicity of rising capital and recurrent expenditure will wipe off the expected exchange rate revenue gain and even stoke a further rise in budget deficit by over 100 per cent to about N20 trillion.

Experts’ insight
Giving insight into the impact of the exchange rate development on the Federal Government’s 2024 budget, Ayorinde Akinloye, an investment analyst, noted that the rise in postbudget exchange rate would be positive for the FG’s revenue performance in naira terms in 2024. He explained that a weaker naira ensures that USD revenues generated through oil sales and taxes are higher when converted to Naira. “However, this will require the budget exchange rate for recognizing revenues to be adjusted to current realities’’, he said.

He further stated: “While revenue is likely to be higher, USD-based expenditure like foreign debt servicing will also increase in naira terms. “In addition, it is important to note that exchange rate and inflationary pressures could force actual expenditure to exceed the budgeted sums for different capital projects. “Also, a consistently weaker naira will force upward adjustment of minimum wage which will contribute to higher recurrent expenditure for the FG. “Thus, the impact will likely be mixed with marginal positive effects on budget deficits.” Speaking on the impact of the exchange rate on the 2024 budgeted debt servicing expenditure, Akinloye said: “Actual debt servicing will end up higher than the budgeted sum. This will largely be driven by higher naira value for USD debt servicing costs.”

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Also speaking on the likely implications of the depreciation of the Naira on the 2024 revenue estimate, Gafar Bashiru, Senior Associate, Parthian Partners, a financial investment and advisory firm, said: “A weaker Naira, higher than the N800 exchange rate budget benchmark, can potentially boost government’s revenue from exports denominated in dollars, such as oil and gas. “This is because more Naira are received for each dollar of export earnings. A weaker Naira can, however, also increase the cost of imported goods and services, which the government relies on for some of its operations and projects.

 

“This can lead to higher spending and potentially reduce the net impact on revenue. “I would expect a fiscally responsible government to make an effort to push for a net positive impact.” On the implication of the new exchange rate on the 2024 budget deficit, Bashiru, said: “The increased Naira revenue from oil sales by the NNPCL could reduce the budget deficit, as long as spending remains within budget. “However, this depends on how effectively the government manages the additional revenue. If the government uses the additional revenue to increase spending, it could lead to a wider deficit. “Additionally, the higher exchange rate could increase the cost of servicing external debt, given that 38% of Nigeria’s debt is denominated in foreign currencies as of June 2023.

“This proportion is expected to grow significantly, given the currency devaluation.” Continuing, he said: “Higher exchange rate will likely increase the Naira cost of servicing external debt. “This is because each dollar of debt translates to more naira to repay. This could put a strain on the budget, especially if the government’s Naira revenue does not increase proportionally. “If the government leans more on Naira borrowing, they might be able to mitigate the impact of higher exchange rate on debt servicing costs.” Also commenting on the post-budget exchange rate for the 2024 revenue estimate, Tajudeen Olayinka, Analyst/ CEO, Wyoming Capital and Partners, said: “It will improve collectable Naira revenue and could also increase Naira component of the budget as multiple Naira expense heads adjust to Naira/Dollar realities.” On the implication of the new exchange rate on 2024 budgeted deficit; he said: “It will, on a balance of probability, reduce the size of the deficit, as government cedes certain economic funding to private sector players who are obliged to recover costs fully.

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“More Naira will be available for servicing Naira related debts, especially local debts. And certainly too, more Naira will go into circulation, further raising the prospect of inflationary spiral.” In his own comment, Analyst and Vice Executive Chairman, David Adonri, Highcap Securities Limited, said: “Recent computation of official foreign exchange rate means that FGN will convert its Dollar income at the new rate which will multiply it’s revenue in 2024.” On the implication of the new exchange rate on 2024 budgeted deficit, he said: “The increase in revenue to FGN that can arise from the new exchange rate ought to reduce 2024 budget deficit but impact of external debt service may neutralize the FX gain.

“At the new exchange rate, more Naira will be needed by FGN beyond the budget estimate to service external debt. ‘‘What FGN has done is to forecast a forward exchange rate based on current trajectory for planning purposes. ‘However, if the market is truly deregulated, market forces will ultimately determine the exchange rate.” Commenting as well, Victor Chiazor, Analyst and Head of Research & Investment, at FSL Securities Limited, said: “The constant

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