By Bimbola Oyesola [email protected]
As Nigeria’s government continues to borrow to meet budget deficit, the organised private sector (OPS) at the weekend cautioned against exploitation of the sector with multifarious taxes, in the face of organized businesses witnessing varied challenges in recent months.
Putting it into proper perspective, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) noted that the problems cut across shortage of foreign exchange, stringent regulatory environment to non-alignment of fiscal and monetary policies, which have combined to make doing business difficult in Nigeria.
Speaking with Daily Sun Workforce, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, NECA’s director-general, said that it was obvious to all discerning stakeholders that the nation was suffering from acute and self-inflicted revenue challenges and a rising debt profile, among many others.
“Even with the nation’s current level of indebtedness, the government is still poised to borrow over N11 trillion to finance the 2023 national budget,” he said.
He reasoned that government had made a cumulative expenditure proposal of over N19 trillion in the 2023 national budget, a 15.4% increase over the 2022 estimate.
According to him, while it is necessary and critical to generate revenue to fund not only the 2023 national budget but also to liquidate the interests accruing on the debts, government will do well not to further burden the real sector with additional taxes and stringent regulatory environment.
Articulating factors that were already crushing organized businesses, the NECA director-general opined that, while debt and paucity of revenue are challenges that are acknowledged, organized businesses should not be made to suffer the lack of proper economic planning and political will that have pervaded successive administrations.
He said, “At the last count, organized businesses are presently faced with over fifty different taxes, levies and fees at all tiers of Government, some of which are duplicated.
“Currently, at the National Assembly, there are over five different bills, which seek to impose various taxes and levies on organized businesses in addition to the notable taxes and levies, which are of general application, such as the National Information Technology Development Levy (NITDA Levy), Education Tax (or Tertiary Education Tax), National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Company Income Tax (CIT), Television and Radio License Fee, Local Content Levy, Stamp duty, among others. While taxes are global phenomenon, governments all over the world seek to protect their most productive sectors rather than tax them out of existence.”
Oyerinde expressed that it is strange that at a time when government should do all that is necessary to protect businesses from total collapse and reduce the increasing unemployment rate, there are proposals to further increase Excise tax on select products, including spirits, alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.
“This action will not only reduce the competitiveness of the industries, but will also increase the cost of doing businesses and further reduce the potential sustainability,” he stated.
Emphasizing the need for government not to over-burden enterprises and also making recommendations on ways out of the debt and revenue quagmire, the NECA Director General insisted that it is in the best interest of government to protect the Real sector rather than tax it out of existence.
He stated, “As the AfCFTA comes into full swing, Nigeria cannot afford to become a dumping ground for cheap imported products because we have refused to protect local businesses. Over the years, we have urged Government to expand the tax net, take a bold step towards stopping the oil-theft industry, take more than a cursory look at national assets that are laying waste and address the national embarrassment called the petrol subsidy regime. There is no justification why the Nation’s four refineries are still moribund after many Turn-Around-Maintenances.
“It will be counter-productive for Government to continue tightening the noose on legitimate businesses that are contributing to national growth while there exist obvious waste and inefficiency in Government yet unattended to.”
He maintained that as a panacea to the ever reducing Direct Foreign Investment, rising unemployment and multi-facet revenue challenges, government and its agencies must protect local businesses and make the operating environment more hospitable.