By Abitunde Taiwo
Nigeria is a country with a GDP of 500 billion US dollars. Norway, a country of 5 million people also with a GDP of $500 billion US dollars, has a budget of $300 billion dollars which is used to provide services and security, and also to build and maintain the infrastructures in that nation.Can new infrastructures be built, existing infrastructures be upgraded, needed services be provided, and robust security infrastructures be built with a federal budget of $30 billion dollars? Nigeria’s situation is even more precarious when you consider that 70% of this budget goes to recurrent expenditures, leaving only $9 billion dollars for capital projects and services to 160 million people! The poor revenue picture at the center is mirrored in the states and local governments. The enormous challenges facing the country such as massive unemployment, insecurity, poor infrastructures, and tensions among peoples and between communities are extremely difficult to ameliorate with insufficient resources.
I propose a solution to this dilemma: A forensic audit of all revenue collecting agencies of government to get a true picture of revenue levels and to unravel leakages for plugging, and to identify untapped revenue sources; fficient and effective collection, accounting, and inclusion of taxes and other revenues in the country in the budgets of all tiers of government.Transparency and accountability in government. Indexing of public salaries to the per capita GDP of the nation. I recommend a maximum public salary of ten times the GDP per capita which is in line with global best practices. I also recommend parity between the salaries of experienced public servants and those of politicians.
Taxation of all working Nigerians and businesses as the principal component of the revenues that federal, states, and local governments will employ in their budgets.A taxation regime will have other effects. It will motivate the Nigerian people to play a more active role in government and help sustain and deepen democracy in the country. Taxation will also be the shared sacrifice needed to render social justice to the oil producing region, provide the funds to diversify the economy, and enable socioeconomic development and prosperity.
With a taxation regime and effective and efficient revenue collection, and a proper accounting of such revenues, a total annual revenue of up to $300 billion US dollars for all three tiers of government is possible. If the current revenue collection agencies of the governments do not have the proper tools to do a better job, they should be provided those tools. If, however it is determined that they are unable to effectively and efficiently collect and account for revenues they collect for use in the budgets, outsourcing of the revenue collection should be made!
Imagine what the federal, states, and local governments can do with a combined budget of up to $300 billion US dollars annually under the scrutiny of the Nigerian people. An annual budget of this magnitude can:Fund public educational institutions nationwide including free tuition for all students; und the building and maintenance of world-class infrastructures nationwide; fund the building and maintenance of public health centres nationwide.Fund a multi-level security apparatus nationwide, with well paid, well trained, well motivated, and well equipped security personnel resident in cities, rural areas, and border communities all supported by state of the art command, control, and communication centers strategically located nationwide. Fund social security and social development programs nationwide.Fund research and development in science, agriculture, veterinary medicine, forestry, tourism, ecology, bio and solar energy, social sciences, humanities, foreign languages, technology, medicine, and manufacturing to promote the global competitiveness of the nation.Fund programmes for employment, training, and entrepreneurship support of all youth in the nation. Fund government obligations to, and agreements with a variety of groups ranging from pensioners, unions, professional bodies, etc, and bring to an end the perennial strikes and labour unrest in the country.
Government spending is a strategy used worldwide to stimulate socioeconomic growth, diversify the economic base, enable full employment, and reduce social tensions. But a government cannot spend money that is not made available to it. $30 billion US dollars, the federal budget in each of the last two years, is grossly inadequate to tackle the socioeconomic, socio-political, and security challenges facing the nation. Nigeria needs significantly larger budgets at the federal, state, and local government levels to promote socioeconomic justice, provide services that the people need, provide employment, improve security, and promote socioeconomic and socio-political development.
Abitunde Taiwo is on Twitter: @abitundetaiwo