By Patrick Obia
The Cross River State Government has revised downwards, the 2020 budget of Olimpotic Meristemasis by a whopping 87 percent.
The Governor, Benedict Ayade had on November 21, 2019, presented the 2020 appropriation bill of NGN1,100,167,507.09 to the House of Assembly. The Assembly passed the budget barely 24 hours to the new year and it was assented to on January 7, 2020.
But, on Monday in Calabar, his finance commissioner, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr told journalists that the budget has been revised downwards to One Hundred and Forty seven Billion, One Hundred and Thirty Million, One Hundred and Sixty Six Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty Six Naira (NGN147,130,166,966), after review. He said it was in view of the reality occasioned by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
This means, the revised budget, which the state said is in line with economic realities, is only 13.4 percent of the original or 86.6 percent lesser.
“The Cross River State government had taught it imperative to do some economic policies and measures in order to forestall this hardship and cushion the effect of the pandemic,” Ekpenyong said.
“The Cross River State government has reviewed its 2020 budget and amended it in line with current economic realities. The budget review exercise had the participation and inputs of MDAs and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the state.
“The budget has been submitted to the Cross River State House of Assembly for its consideration, review and possible resolutions.The budget that has been submitted has a revised figure of 2020 original budget figure of NGN147,130,166,966,” he added.
Explaining the huge cut, the finance commissioner averred that; “Four reasons were taken into consideration for review, they include the downward projected federation revenues especially the Cross River State projected statutory revenue allocations from the federation account. Reduction in non-priority capital and recurrent expenditure.
“We focused on allocating a lot of expenditure to COVID-19 response programmes and exercises which are targeted at relief , restructuring and recovery from the pandemic. The COVID-19 response items in the budget are marked at 16.3 per cent in the amended budget.
“We expressly identified and stated the Finance sources to fully finance the budget deficit accumulating new domestic carriers.”
This means to tackle COVID-19, the state has budgeted NGN23.98 billion.
He was accompanied by the Chairman of the Cross River Internal Revenue service, (CRIRS), Mr Akpanke Ogar, who reiterated the government’s commitment to deal with those flouting the state’s tax exemption law.
“Individuals in Public sector (under the pay -as- you- earn- scheme) earning less than one hundred thousand monthly are granted tax relief from personal income tax, in line with provisions of the Cross River State Tax Exemption Law 2015(As Amended).
“Self-employed persons, artisans, hawkers, okada riders, tricycle riders, taxi drivers petty shops, barbing/hairdressing saloons owners, restaurant/eateries and others under presumptive tax regime are granted tax relief in line with provisions of cross River State Tax Exemption Law 2015 As Amended,” Akpanke said.
Furthermore, he explained that abating and exemption of these categories of people is to make life easy in this trying period of pandemic.
Akpanke who said, “though, it will affect government”, called on residents of the state to reach the revenue board for clarifications on revenue transactions.
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