By Kini Nsom & Leocadia Bongben
Some Members of Parliament, MPs, have criticised the 2008-draft budget intimating that it will fuel corruption, since it makes no provision for an increase in the salaries of civil servants.
The MPs were reacting to government's socio-economic, financial and cultural programme, which Prime Minister, Chief Ephraim Inoni, presented the National Assembly on November 16.
The MP for Kumbo Central constituency in the Northwest Province, Hon Joseph Banadzem, said the fact that the draft budget did not make provision for an increase in civil servant's remunerations makes it possible for corruptions and poverty to stay in place.
He dismissed the Prime Minister's declarations to the effect that government will construct more roads as a mere slogan because it was stated in the 2007 budget that 10 kilometres of road were going to be tarred in the Bamenda ring road and till date not even half a kilometre has been constructed.
He wondered aloud what happened to the money that was allocated for the project. He said the 2008 budget is a manipulation of figures by the government to fool the Cameroonian people to believe that there is economic recovery and that poverty and corruption will be fought.
According to the MP for the Santa Special constituency, Hon Paul Nji Tumasang, the budget will make no sense if the engagements taken by government in it are not respected as usual. To him, procedures and regulations that govern the executions of macro-economic reforms must be respected.
On his part, the MP for Akwaya, Hon Paul Ayah, expressed reservations about the draft-budget, noting that a large chunk of the 2007 Investment budget has not been executed.
On the contrary, the MP for Mayo-Danay North constituency in the Far North Province, Hon. Jean Manigue, said the 2008 budget has the potentials to fight poverty and corruption as stated in government's socio-economic, financial and cultural programme. But Hon. Simon Nchimda Fobi of the Mezam Central constituency quickly dismissed the claim saying that the budget is unrealistic and too impotent to fight poverty and corruption in any way.
While presenting government's socio-economic financial and cultural programme, Prime Minister, Chief Ephraim Inoni said the economic growth projection for 2008 is 4.5 percent with a Gross Domestic Product, GDP, deficit of less than 3 percent and inflation rate of 3percent.
PM Inoni said the 2008 draft budget that stands at FCFA 2276 billion will ensure sustainable economic growth and enhance the onslaught against poverty and corruption, To him, the new budget was tailored to provide more social amenities to Cameroonians as prescribed by President Paul Biya during a crucial Council of Ministers meeting on September12.
According to Chief Inoni, the 2008 draft budget is hinged on non-oil revenue and carries with it stringent prescriptions on the judicious spending only on priority projects that fight poverty and improve the living conditions of Cameroonians. Besides, cautious spending, he said the budget will ensure the intensification of the fight against custom fraud.
To this, he said, a specialised unit to fight custom fraud will be set up. He said government would institute an attractive tax scheme for operators in the field of Agriculture, live stock and fisheries. Besides, relieving imported building materials from Value Added Tax, VAT, the Prime Minister said government will introduce new tax measures to make the country's business environment more attractive and reduce penalties for unintended economic crimes by 30percent.
He pledged government's commitment to strengthen regional integration with the CEMAC region by enhancing the proper functioning of border markets like Ekok, Bankim, Kyossi in order to enhance trans-border trade.
The government, he stated, aims at doubling agricultural production by 2015, starting from 2008. He equally pledged government's support to grassroots communities by constructing farm-to-market roads and the enhancement of the agricultural statistics programme.
He promised that a school for the training of fishermen would be created in Limbe, Southwest Province. A plan for the architectural renovations of some chiefdom has been envisaged in the new budget.
The 2008 budget that stands at FCFA 2276 billion as against 2251billion for 2007 has slight increase of only FCFA 25billion. Non-oil revenue is expected to fetch FCFA 1427 billion, while petrol resources will provide FCFA593 billion. Taxes from petrol exploitation companies will feed the budget with FCFA 110 billion.
53 percent of the budget will be used for expenses; investment will take 23 percent while 22 percent will be used for the payment of debts.
While analysing the figures of the budget, Prof. Wilfred Ndonko, a senior economist and lecturer at the International Relations Institute, IRIC, Youande, said there could be a lot of wrong things hiding behind the figures of the budget. He said the projected economic growth rates of 4.5 percent in 2008 means that only 1.5 percent resources will be made available to the population.
He warned that the budget will mean nothing if the authorities mobilize resources only to pay themselves by giving big salaries to managers and workers of state corporations while ordinary Cameroonians wallow in poverty.
According to the varsity don, government must execute reforms and invest in projects that can radically transform the country's economy and bring more value to the Gross National Product, GNP. He said after reaching the completion point of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, HIPCI, government seems to be lying on its laurels again because they think that the country is no longer under any serious pressure to pay its external debt.
He said if corruption is not fiercely fought, collective efforts against poverty would only end up in the private pockets of corrupt individuals. He said governments must not only keep its corrupt individuals in jail but also make sure that the money they have embezzled is recovered and put back in to the public treasury.