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Acting Chairman, Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), Mr Victor Muruako, has advised the Federal Government to consolidate on the gains in the agricultural sector to realise its projections for the 2018 budget.

He gave the advice on Wednesday in Abuja while speaking with reporters on the 2018 budget, put at N8.6I2 trillion.

The budget, tagged “Budget of Consolidation”, which was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday is expected to reinforce and build on recent accomplishments of the government.

Its key parameters include a crude oil benchmark price of 45 dollar per barrel, oil production estimate of 2.3 million barrels per day and exchange rate of N305 per dollar.

The budget also has projected oil revenue of N2.442 trillion and non-oil projection of N4.165 trillion.

Muruako said though a lot of work had gone into the agriculture sector, the nation could go further by developing agriculture related Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to improve on agricultural produce.

He said this would ensure that the produce were converted into other consumables that were often imported, thereby reducing importation and increasing the nation’s export base.

“I am very happy about the sectoral allocation for agriculture, it is one area that will grow this economy, particularly if the right things are done and if SMEs are encouraged,’’ he said.

On the budget projections, Muruako said they were realistic and achievable, though aggressive.

He said that it was better to plan ambitiously than make plans that were below reasonable expectations.

“If you look at the projections, they are very aggressive efforts and good, because they are layouts plans and it is better to plan and get close to your target than to not plan at all.

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“Budget is like a financial plan and you have to be ambitious, this government has been ambitious and maybe that is why we have been able to exit recession quickly.

“These projections are achievable, particularly when you look at the steady decline of inflation.

“We may say it is not so dramatic yet, but I think that the projection rate for inflation of 12.8 per cent is achievable.”

He also said the projected non-oil revenue was evidence that the administration was serious about diversification, adding that it showed that taxation would be a good revenue generator for the year.

Muruako commended Buhari for presenting the proposal to the National Assembly early enough, adding that it would be a very beautiful thing for the budget life to return to the January to December cycle.

He also said this would enable the nation run the fiscal year in the ideal way it should be run.

“It has not been easy all these years, the inconsistency in the budget cycle did not just start now, there had been numerous challenges but then there have also been a lot of improvement.

“We must first of all commend the President for presenting the budget at this time.

“Although statutorily, it is not the right time, but I think the time is reasonable enough, it is an improvement from what it used to be.’’

He also said it was appropriate to term the 2018 budget the budget of consolidation.

This he said was because there had been progressive improvement in the economy and the nation needed to build on the success of having exited from recession to boost the economy.

According to him, there is the need to consolidate on the gains made.

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