Taming Budgetary Recklessness

Cameroon is fully into the second month of the 2015 financial year and as the Finance Law adopted by Parliament and later promulgated by the President of the Republic before it went into force on January 1, 2015,- prescribed in its remarks on the general state of the economy, there is absolute need to be cautious.

This caution is justified by a certain number of objective considerations least of which is not the worrying growth rate of the economy which is yet to get to levels needed for ordinary citizens to feel the positive effects of growth. The watchword around the execution of the budget has been about cutting down government spending and reducing the rather extravagant lifestyle of the State, best manifested by lavish allowances paid for non-essential services, official government missions overseas without a real impact on national development, excessive and irrational use of petroleum products, the acquisition of luxury vehicles, the abusive use of telephone lines and so on and so forth.

At the cabinet meeting of last December, 2014, the Prime Minister and Head of Government literally stirred the hornet’s nest when he called on members of government to ensure the radical downsizing of spending, especially on luxury items or those not having a direct bearing or necessary impact in helping promote or facilitating government work. These calls are logical, especially in a context where ordinary people have been called upon each time to make sacrifices, often attracting the encouragements and recognition of the Head of State. So, asking the State to set the example could not be asking too much! One is not demanding the State to take an ascetic posture because we are not in any hazardous economic straits, but simply in an economic situation which is growing, but not good enough to ensure the prosperity our people want as soon as they would have wanted. Moreover, the general economic environment warrants such a new cautious spending mode.

For many reasons, indeed. What immediately comes to mind is the sudden drop in oil prices shortly after the adoption of the budget and which has created a revenue shortfall of a colossal FCFA314 Billion. To be able to keep its promises and developmental projects, the State will have to find that money from somewhere. Turning to taxes is one way out but it may turn out to be working a willing horse to death if it is about turning to ordinary citizens who are already being encouraged to start small businesses. The situation is also exacerbated by the costly war imposed on our nation by the Boko Haram sect and which has seen huge sums of money, initially set aside for vital life-saving developmental projects, diverted to the war effort.

The President of the Republic has prescribed caution in spending. The Prime Minister has followed suit with very clear indications as to what budgetary heads should be targeted. The field reality however does not seem to reflect a situation in which all are agreed on this money-saving imperative. Otherwise, what can explain the fact that in spite of the Prime Minister’s orders, we still see numerous aertisements and other calls for tender in Cameroon Tribune for luxury cars costing nearly FCFA100 Million? Here, we are talking of luxury limousines for public officials and not leaders of the corporate world who can spend their hard-earned money the way they want.

Quite often, these purchases are made with the complicity of board chairpersons who have but little regard for existing legislation because one cannot imagine any law-abiding office-holder treating orders from above with such arrogance and off-handedness. Apart from negating all initiatives taken to safeguard tax-payers’ money, this propensity to lavishly spend government money, made right under the noses of those who prescribed contrary spending habits, begs for the setting up of a veritable brigade with wide-ranging powers to ensure respect for existing rules and regulations as well as ensuring that government orders are perceived by ordinary citizens as serious.

Otherwise the present trend will continue to leave the impression that all these measures are simply made to temporarily appease citizens whereas those supposed to keep the taxpayers’ money continually live in luxury as if to flout ordinary Cameroonians.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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