Adesina Tasks Tinubu on Fiscal Stability
By Adedapo Adesanya
The president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has tasked President Bola Tinubu to reduce the high cost of governance and ensure fiscal stability.
He made the disclosure during his speech at the Inauguration Lecture for the New President of Nigeria on May 27, 2023, in Abuja, noting that, “The starting point must be macroeconomic and fiscal stability. Unless the economy is revived and fiscal challenges addressed boldly, resources to develop will not be there.”
He noted that Nigeria currently faces huge fiscal deficits, estimated at 6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“This has been due to huge federal and state government expenditures, lower receipts due to dwindling revenues from crude oil export, vandalism of pipelines, and illegal bunkering of crude oil.
“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, Nigeria now spends 96 per cent of its revenue servicing debt, with the debt-to-revenue ratio rising from 83.2 per cent in 2021 to 96.3 per cent by 2022.
“Some will argue that the debt to GDP ratio at 34 per cent is still low compared to other countries in Africa, which is correct, but no one pays their debt using GDP.
“Debt is paid using revenue, and Nigeria’s revenues have been declining,” he warned.
He lamented that Nigeria now earns revenue to service debt—not to grow, and advised the government to remove the inefficient fuel subsidies, a decision he adhered to on Monday.
In his words, “Nigeria’s fuel subsidies benefit the rich, not the poor, fuelling their and government’s endless fleets of cars at the expense of the poor. Estimates show that the poorest 40 per cent of the population consume just 3 per cent of petrol.
“Fuel subsidies are killing the Nigerian economy, costing Nigeria $10 billion alone in 2022. That means Nigeria is borrowing what it does not have to if it simply eliminates the subsidies and uses the resources well for its national development.”
He advised that rather support should be given to private sector refineries and modular refineries to allow for efficiency and competitiveness to drive down fuel pump prices.
“The newly commissioned Dangote Refinery by President Buhari—the largest single train petroleum refinery in the world, as well as its Petrochemical Complex—will revolutionize Nigeria’s economy,” he announced.
The former Nigerian minister of agriculture also said the country must urgently look at the cost of governance.
“The cost of governance in Nigeria is way too high and should be drastically reduced to free up more resources for development. Nigeria is spending very little on development.
“Nigeria is ranked among countries with the lowest human development index in the world, with a rank of 167 among 174 countries globally, according to the World Bank 2022 Public Expenditure Review report.
“To meet Nigeria’s massive infrastructure needs, according to the report, will require $3 trillion by 2050. According to the report, at the current rate, it would take Nigeria 300 years to provide its minimum level of infrastructure needed for development.
“All living Nigerians today, and many generations to come, will be long gone by then! We must change this. Nigeria must rely more on the private sector for infrastructure development to reduce fiscal burdens on the government,” he hammered.
He also tasked the Tinubu administration to raise tax revenue, as the tax-to-GDP ratio is still low.
“This must include improving tax collection, tax administration, moving from tax exemption to tax redemption, ensuring that multinational companies pay appropriate royalties and taxes and that leakages in tax collection are closed.”
However, he noted that simply raising taxes is not enough, “as many question the value of paying taxes, hence the high level of tax avoidance. Many citizens provide their own electricity, sink boreholes to get access to water, and repair roads in their towns and neighbourhoods.”
“These are essentially high implicit taxes. Nigerians, therefore, pay the highest ‘implicit tax rates’ in the world.
“Governments need to assure effective social contracts by delivering quality public services. It is not the amount collected, it is how it is spent and what is delivered. Nations that grow better run effective governments that assure social contracts with their citizens,” he added.