President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has expressed his administration’s resolve to break the vicious cycle of overreliance on borrowing for public spending, and the resulting burden of debt-servicing it places on the management of Nigeria’s limited government revenues.
He also hinted of critical tax reforms that would lead to increased revenues to meet the people’s needs and aspirations.
Inaugurating the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms chaired by Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, President Tinubu charged the committee to improve the country’s revenue profile and business environment as the federal government moves to achieve an 18% tax-to-GDP ratio within three years.
He directed the committee to achieve its one-year mandate, which is divided into three main areas: fiscal governance, tax reforms, and growth facilitation.
Tinubu also directed all government ministries and departments to cooperate fully with the committee towards achieving their mandate.
He also underscored the significance of the committee’s assignment, saying his administration carries the burden of expectations from citizens who want their government to make their lives better.
“’We cannot blame the people for expecting much from us. To whom much is given, much is expected. It is even more so when we campaigned on a promise of a better country anchored on our Renewed Hope Agenda. I have committed myself to use every minute I spend in this office to work to improve the quality of life of our people,” he said.
Acknowledging the county’s current international standing in the tax sector, the president said the nation was still facing challenges in areas such as ease of tax payment and its Tax-to-GDP ratio, which he said still fell short of even Africa’s Continental average.
“Our aim is to transform the tax system to support sustainable development while achieving a minimum of 18% tax-to-GDP ratio within the next three years. Without revenue, government cannot provide adequate social services to the people it is entrusted to serve.
“The Committee, in the first instance, is expected to deliver a schedule of quick reforms that can be implemented within thirty days. Critical reform measures should be recommended within six months, and full implementation will take place within one calendar year,” he said.
…Aide recalls Lagos experience
Recounting President Tinubu’s track record on revenue transformation, the Special Adviser to the President on Revenue, Mr Zacchaeus Adedeji, described the committee members, drawn from the public and private sectors, as accomplished individuals from various sectors.
“Mr President, you have the pedigree when it comes to revenue transformation. You demonstrated this when you were the Governor of Lagos State over 20 years ago,” he said.
…‘Existing tax laws outdated’
Also speaking, the committee chairman, Mr Taiwo Oyedele, pledged the total commitment of members to give their best in the interest of the nation.
“Many of our existing laws are outdated, hence they require comprehensive updates to achieve full harmonisation to address the multiplicity of taxes, and to remove the burden on the poor and vulnerable while addressing the concerns of all investors, big and small,” he said.
Okonjo-Iweala on job creation
In a related development, Director-General World Trade Organisation (WTO) Dr Ngozi Okonlo-Iweala has said Nigeria needs to introduce community and grassroots programmes that would help create jobs for youth and women.
Addressing State House correspondents Tuesday after a meeting with President Tinubu, Okonlo-Iweala said introducing community and grassroots programmes would address some of the challenges confronting the nation.
“We saw the president and focused on how we can support Nigerians at this time of need. We all know that things are very difficult for Nigerians outside, everyone is struggling. I’m here myself on a quiet visit. So, this was not really an official WTO mission but we’re able to engage with Mr. President, talk about what kinds of programmes that could be put in place to make sure that the suffering of Nigerians is being alleviated.
“And we had a really good conversation on trying to look at the community and grassroots programmes that can be put in place to create jobs for young people, trying to support women and children, who are bearing the brunt of some of the suffering in the country.
“We talked about how for the longer term, we need to do that investment opportunities that Nigeria can cease, including in the pharmaceutical industry. We also talked about what type of support the World Trade Organisation can bring.
“We’re already working in Nigeria with women in particular, who own small and medium enterprises to try to help them upgrade the quality of their products whether it’s in the agricultural area, in textiles and in other areas so that they can sell more internationally.
“We’re trying to help them with digital trade, the wave of the future digital trade, so how do we train and empower Nigerian women and owners of small and medium enterprises so they can trade more and create more jobs?
“So that is what we discussed with Mr. President and as the Director General of the World Trade Organization, we are going to try to do the most we can to support Nigerians and this particular time,” she said.