Making Budgeting More Impactful, By Oluwadele Bolutife
Given the robust response of Mr. Fasua, therefore, and incorporating his idea of maintenance budgeting into the overall trajectory, a purpose-driven budgeting is not only worth considering but can become impactful if more meaningful and perhaps unbiassed inquisition into what it can offer is looked into.
Before the second article on my proposed purpose-driven budgeting was published, I had a conversation with ‘Tope Fasua, and he told me he was preparing a response to my proposal. I also let him know that I had written a follow-up article to the initial one. If I had my way, I would have waited before I released my second article. So, necessarily, this third article is substantially dedicated to responding to his new focus on maintenance. Afterward, the attempt will be made to expand the frontier of the discussion to the ultimate desire of making our budgeting much more impactful than it is currently.
‘Tope loves budgeting! So do I. Why will he not as an economist and accountant, and with his new ‘encroachment’ into the public policy sphere. I also happen to be an accountant, with modest claim to a knowledge of history and an emerging flare for public policy scholarship. In that regard, we are not too fundamentally different on many fronts. However, I was shocked that ‘Tope thought he was saying something different from what I had said. For the lack of better expression, a maintenance budgeting approach is a simple subset of a purpose-driven budget. To expand and explain the typical trajectory in our position, I will delve into the village boy tradition to make my point clearer.
Let’s for that purpose that what I proposed was like a palm fruit, and ‘Tope is advocating for a straight extraction of the kennel from the fruit. Is it a bad idea? I don’t think it is. When you think about how we are racing against time, it might not be out of place to want to ‘jump some queues’, if that would get us to our destination faster. Again, there also lies the crux of the matter, our legendary impatience for getting things done correctly. We are always in haste, going really to nowhere. This is not an indictment on ‘Tope anyway. I could feel his pains as he enunciated about the huge numbers of our people who are yearly failed by our less than impactful budgeting. The matter is further complicated by our penchant for the flowery mimicry of some ‘superficial’ ideas. Most often, it is the ‘peddlers’ of such ideas who benefit from this, as they are probably less concerned about the ultimate purpose that the design would achieve.
To jump straight into maintenance budgeting, which is not bad in itself, as advocated by my good friend ‘Tope, would thus mean that we will lose out on the many benefits that we can derive from a painstakingly fashioned out purpose. I do get his frustration that it may be practically impossible to agree on a shared goal.
If we extract kennel from our proverbial palm fruit, we will be losing out on many fronts as it were. First, the baseline ‘afang’ soup will be missed, as the crushing of the fruit to extract the kennel straight away would render other components useless. The same thing goes for what we call “egboyin” (palm fruit extraction in local parlance), which serves some emergency purposes, especially during those periods in the farm, when you want to give yourself a ‘treat.’ Besides these, we will also miss out on “ikete” (another kind of extraction from local palm oil refining that is served as a ‘spread’ on roasted yam) and “oguso” (the candle-like stick made from waste extracted from refined palm oil). In addition to that may equally be the kennel shell used to power the blacksmith’s fireplace; not to talk of the perhaps pedestrian “patanpata,” which is a kind of ‘ala carte’ delicacy of the ‘rascally’ boys, when adults are not on the farm.
To jump straight into maintenance budgeting, which is not bad in itself, as advocated by my good friend ‘Tope, would thus mean that we will lose out on the many benefits that we can derive from a painstakingly fashioned out purpose. I do get his frustration that it may be practically impossible to agree on a shared goal. Yet, without such an agreement, it will be challenging even to do maintenance budgeting as well.
Then, what will the next issue after maintenance be? Or are we supposed to continue maintaining ad infinitum? Maintenance, as crucial as it may be, cannot and will not take us too far. In an age of breathtaking innovations, the sad reality is that maintenance budgeting will eventually revert to the similitude of incremental budgeting. If my understanding is clear about maintenance budgeting as a focal point in the direction of purpose-driven budgeting, it can only serve a bridging purpose at best. To even it more impactful therefore, it can be built in as an integral part of a broader objective, primarily to avoid our annoying philosophy of the lack of continuity. I do also agree that we may not achieve any meaningful purpose if we don’t build a much-needed maintenance culture into our public economic and financial management. To that extent, it can be affirmed that for us to develop a grounded purpose-driven budgeting system, we must and should consider as top priority two essential elements. These are the completion of many abandoned projects littering the entire landscape, after due consideration of the viability of each project. Two, without a culture of continuity that is hinged on sustainable maintenance, we may eventually return to the vicious cycle again.
Mr. Fasua has succeeded in extending the frontier of the discussion to bringing the salient but equally important issue of maintenance into the fore, yet we need more engagement if we are interested in bringing to the barest minimum, the agonies our budgeting system has inflicted on us for so long.
Against the backdrop of the phenomenon of us once “not having a problem with money, but how to spend it” (credited to General Gowon as the head of state in the early 1970s), we need to strive to ensure that we build our budgeting around meaningful purposes, which can be evaluated over time. Of course, it may not be an easy task to agree on ‘common’ goals, but the impactful implementation of some defined purposes, may, in the long run, attract the support of even hard critics of its proponent. No doubt, old habits die hard, nonetheless, if we manage some ‘natural’ expectations that may become ‘clogs in the wheels’ of progress effectively, the purpose-driven alternative may not necessarily end in the way of others, such as the zero-based budgeting (ZBB) and the likes.
Given the robust response of Mr. Fasua, therefore, and incorporating his idea of maintenance budgeting into the overall trajectory, a purpose-driven budgeting is not only worth considering but can become impactful if more meaningful and perhaps unbiassed inquisition into what it can offer is looked into. Plus, drawing inferences from the pitfalls of the past, a lot of remediations can be built with the singular focus that an effective budgeting system is not in the soundness of its name, but more on the impact it can make on the people, especially the most vulnerable in our community. Can it be said that beyond the statistics, the current budgeting system is impactful? If the answer is in the negative, then are we supposed to resign ourselves to fate, or look for a meaningful solution? Mr. Fasua has succeeded in extending the frontier of the discussion to bringing the salient but equally important issue of maintenance into the fore, yet we need more engagement if we are interested in bringing to the barest minimum, the agonies our budgeting system has inflicted on us for so long.
Once again, it still the “Village Boy” #JustThinkingAloud.
Oluwadele L. Bolutife, a chartered accountant and a public policy and administration scholar, writes from Canada.