Nigeria Economy: Wale Edun unveils agenda to close N20trn annual loses to tax avoidance, evasion, incentives, others

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, on Friday unveiled some agenda which the President Bola Tinubu-led government hopes to use in transforming the challenging economic environment.

He stated this in Abuja during his maiden press briefing where he outlined Tinubu’s visions, agenda and strategy for the economy.

Edun said that the administration had pointed out some priority areas including food security; economic growth; utilizing human resources by focusing on inclusivity, women and youths; focusing on rule of law and anti-corruption, among others.

He said that there would be periodic performance evaluations for the different Ministers for Nigerians to see their achievements.

Edun said: “This is to give you elements of Tinubu’s vision and his strategy for the economy, his plans to give a better economy and a better life to Nigerians.

“His plans for the economy are economic growth, job creation and access to capital particularly consumer credit that makes growth affordable to the average Nigerian.

“ The priority areas where he is going to take Nigeria and his key priorities are to improve the lives of Nigerians by providing food security by ending poverty.”

The minister said that the last time that the country had low inflation, low exchange rate, affordable interest rate and considerable economic growth was ten years ago.

“We all know we are not where we should be, the economy is growing barely above the rate of population growth but it was not always so,” he said.

Edun said during the period of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the country had enough foreign exchange to defend the naira and meet its fiscal obligations.

“What that points to is that we have a situation where if government doesn’t have the money, it needs to facilitate and allow private funding and other sources of funding such as foreign direct investments and domestic investments by Nigerians in all areas,” he said.

Edun said that Tinubu’s agenda was increasing revenues so that there is enough funding from the government to carry out its expenditure.

“On the one hand is by increasing tax revenue not by increasing taxes but by bringing greater efficiency and to maximise the revenue.

“There will be an emphasis on efficiency in government expenditure and effective debt management so that borrowing has linked to it, the effective debt management.

“Also, the president is going to provide a better life for all by encouraging investments that improve productivity, grows the economy and thereby creates jobs and reduces poverty,” he said.

Taiwo Oyedele, Chairman, Presidential Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms Committee, hinted plans to review the nation’s tax regime, and close N20 trillion which the country loses to tax avoidance, evasion and incentives annually.

He said that Nigeria loses up to N6 trillion annually to tax incentives adopted by past governments, which did not yield the desired benefits for the country.

“When you don’t look at your incentives regime it can get to a point where it becomes a distortion for economic growth, because some people benefits or that don’t and the operates in the same sector, so they cannot compete.

“When you don’t look at your incentives regime. It can get to a point where it becomes a distortion for economic growth, because some people benefits or that don’t and the operates in the same sector, so they cannot compete.

“So I can confirm to you as part of the mandate given to us by the President, is to look at incentives regime in Nigeria.

“So we can base on data and evidence, design what is appropriate for us as a country in terms of what we want to drive, so those incentives will be targeted,” he said.

Oyedele said that this administration was focusing on driving an effective fiscal governance, revenue transformation beyond taxes, while optimising the non tax revenues.

He said that the target was to achieve 18 per cent tax to GDP ratio over the next three years, while ensuring reduction in the number of taxes payable by Nigerians.

“So that appears like a contradiction, how do you remove taxes and collect more, but it’s easy to explain, because we know where the gaps are, the estimated tax gap which is what you should collect today, if people should pay the right amount of taxes is in the region of N20 trillion.

“So to close that gap, we will rely on automation and the efficiency of collection including harmonisation of how those taxes are collected.

“The other thing is, if you also consider the incentive rationalisation maybe it’s not N6 trillion we should be giving away maybe it’s N2 trillion which must be targeted at people that need them the most.

“And the one that is even more interesting is the plan to increase tax revenue by growing the economy, so if you allow people to be prosperous and businesses to thrive, then you make money from revenue naturally,” Oyedele said. He said that efforts were ongoing to facilitate economic growth and inclusive development by addressing notable impediments to doing business in Nigeria.