Can we afford the N5,000 stipend?

President Muhammadu Buhari last week presented to the National Assembly the Federal Government’s proposal to spend N500 billion on the youth and other vulnerable groups in 2016. The proposal is contained in the 2016-2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.

According to the document the social welfare programme would be executed in phases but it did not say whether it was meant to implement his party’s campaign promise to pay each unemployed person N5, 000 monthly.

It said that the scheme would also take care of the school feeding programme, cash transfer to the most vulnerable and post-National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) grant.

Commendable as the government intentions are, can Nigeria afford this at this time of broken public finance?

Although the National Assembly is yet to commence debate on the issue, the programme looks haphazard and unplanned for.

The mere fact that the target group is amorphous could make the programme another potential source of unrest.

Feeding primary school children across the country alone will take up the entire budget and if the government is to fulfill its campaign promise of paying N5, 000 to the unemployed, N500 billion budget might be a far cry from what is required.

Estimates indicate that there are close to 25 million unemployed Nigerians. If this government is to pay out unemployment benefits to this group alone, it will require a budget of close to N1.5 trillion.

Where is it going to raise the funds from? A plan without a detailed source of financing is nothing but a wish-list.

The general outlook for the Nigerian economy for the next two years gives little room for exuberant social spending.

The prices of crude oil could dip to $20 per barrel next year, and this could worsen the current situation whereby most states cannot pay workers’ salaries. Can the economy  accommodate this now?

We understand the pressure the Federal Government is under to fulfill one of its campaign promises.

Will it not be better if this money is invested in the productive sectors of the economy and create jobs for these unemployed youth?

Is it not better to teach the youth how to fish rather than giving them fish? If this government starts this journey in an economy that is facing financial crisis, how far can it go?

Will this journey not create social discontent if some are left out in the cold?

Before endorsing this package, the National Assembly must ensure that the criteria for determining those eligible for the programme are clearly spelt out, and that the economy is in a position to sustain it.

Otherwise, we advocate for the suspension of the payment  till the economy improves, while the N500 billion is put ventures that create jobs.

Source: Vanguard


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