Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed says more tax collection and blockage of revenue leakages were the only realistic ways of reducing the country’s mounting debt burden.
Ahmed stated this at a workshop on tax expenditure organised by the ECOWAS Commission under the Context of the Implementation of the Support Programme for Tax Transition in West Africa (PATF) in Abuja on Tuesday.
The workshop is aimed at examining directives on harmonisation of tax expenditure management practices and the monitoring and evaluation of tax transition in ECOWAS member states.
The minister who was represented by the Director, Technical Services in the Ministry, Fatima Hayatu, said the issue of tax expenditure was a great concern for the government.
The government had in July said the country’s debt service cost in the first quarter (Q1) 2022 was N1.94 trillion, N310 billion higher than the actual revenue received during the period indicating that Nigeria’s debt service cost outweighs its revenue.
Ahmed, however, said the debt burden is not beyond what the government can handle.
She said: “If we have more taxes and redirect the taxes to the right fiscal sectors of our economy, we will reduce our debt burden. It is not as if the debt is beyond what the goverment can handle. If you look at the ratio of the debt to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), I think the goverment is doing well.
“The debt is not something that cannot surmounted. The programme is to block leakages where the taxes are being diverted. So, if we block leakages, and if it is transparent, Nigeria will borrow less and we will have more money to finance other sectors”.
Noting that reforms in tax expenditure management were gaining traction in Nigeria, the minister observed that the development had resulted in the continuous development of in-house capabilities and internal restructuring in agencies for greater efficiency.
Ahmed also said the government would commence the rationalisation of tax exemptions by phasing out antiquated pioneers and other tax incentives for matured industries.
The minister noted that contrary to what was obtained in the past, the country is reaping the benefits of tax exemptions and concessions given to small businesses.
She explained: “A lot has changed, the system is more transparent and tax expenditure that government has given which is tax for bond is to encourage ailing and infant industries to do more and employ more youths.’’