Chief Economist, Africa, and the Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank Group, Razia Khan, has described the status of Nigeria’s revenue as problematic, and as a source of concern to foreign investors. She stated this while presenting the bank’s Nigeria 2020-Economic Outlook.
Despite the measures being taken by President Muhammadu Buhari to mobilise revenue, the economist explained that the adopted initiatives to shore up the revenue base isn’t the most important thing, but the effectiveness of the measures.
One of the controversial initiatives is the part of the Finance Act that expand the tax net and collection across Nigeria, including increasing the VAT from 5% to 7.5%.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that the nation’s total debt rose from N25.70 trillion in March 2019 to N26.14 trillion by the end of September 2019.
What it means: Quarter on quarter, Nigeria’s total debt stock rose by 1.71% or N440 billion. Despite the rise, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed has continued to state that the debt increase isn’t the problem, but the depleting revenue.
Khan said, “It is very clear from the concerns outlined by Fitch and Moody’s last year that one thing that Nigeria will have to do in a big way is revenue mobilisation. Nigeria’s problem is a revenue problem, until you don’t do anything on revenue, then everyone focuses on debt.
“A very key metric everyone needs to pay attention to is the revenue to debt service ratio. We think the fiscal authorities are already reacting to this. They have already outlined their intention to seek more concessionary sources of financing wherever they are available.
“So I think there is this realization at the finance and budget ministry level that the way to keep on borrowing to be able to drive spending intent is not unlimited and that Nigeria needs to show an immediate difference in controlling the near term cost of debt service and especially in terms of ramping up the revenue.
“So it is not that they can do one part of that equation without looking at the other. You have to do both at the same time. This is because if there is no revenue growth, then even the amount of credit that creditors are previously willing to lend or investors are previously willing to put into the debt market, there will be a demand for higher returns if the risks are higher because revenue growth is just not there.” Khan said.
New wage going to be a problem: Khan explained that regardless the measures being taken to mobilise revenue, the new minimum wage increase will affect the finances of the States, so there’s still more to be done, “We have seen some announcements of minimum wage increase. It is clear that something needs to be done to address the challenges that will be created to state government finances.”
Adding that “The VAT increase is the obvious solution but it was not obvious at the time that it was going to be implemented. Even though some will argue that 7.5% is not really that high, it is still way below the regional peers, but it is a step in the right direction and if tax compliance be tightened at the same time, this will ultimately be positive.”