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Experts to Buhari: Remove Petrol Subsidy, Cut Interest Rates

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  • Experts to Buhari: Remove Petrol Subsidy, Cut Interest Rates

Foreign and local economic experts have said President Muhammadu Buhari should put at the top of his second-term agenda the removal of petrol subsidy as well as the reduction of interest rates in a bid to stimulate investments and economic growth.

Experts at Agusto & Co Limited, a credit rating agency, said in a report on Tuesday that the country “is currently in a dire fiscal strait and the numbers are quite grim.”

“For instance, despite the positive spin about Nigeria’s benign debt to Gross Domestic Product currently around 20 per cent, interest payments as a percentage of revenue are over 60 per cent,” they said.

The Lagos-based rating agency said Buhari’s government would have to work to raise revenue while also restructuring government spending.

It said, “All options on the table for Mr Buhari in his last term are hard choices with no easy way out. For instance, Nigeria’s current fuel subsidy regime indicates the country may have re-adopted opaque practices of the past that not only create a huge fiscal hole but a morass as well.

“With subsidy payments probably in the range of N1.2tn-N1.3tn annually, the country is obviously hemorrhaging especially amidst the steep opportunity costs. Mr Buhari will not only have to stop this fiscal hemorrhage but also muster the political will to deregulate the downstream petroleum industry once and for all.”

According to Agusto & Co, some of the big issues that will make or mar Buhari’s economic records will be the management of subsidies and other cost-unreflective tariffs being stifled by price controls.

“These reforms will require the removal of subsidies on the pump price of petrol, allow market forces to determine the domestic price of natural gas, allow electricity tariffs that enable operators to earn margins on their costs and also ensure exchange rates reflect fundamentals. These reforms could help stimulate investments across the board and unlock economic growth,” the experts added.

They said the Buhari administration should seek to improve efficiencies in the economy by concessioning key infrastructure and eliminating monopolies of state-owned enterprises in key sectors such as aviation (airport ownership and management), railway and electricity transmission by opening up the sectors to private sector investments.

The Global Chief Economist, Renaissance Capital, Charlie Robertson, in an emailed note on Tuesday, said Nigeria would require a doubling of oil price or industrialisation to achieve real per capita GDP growth of four to six per cent (i.e. headline GDP growth of seven to nine per cent).

He said, “Without it, per capita GDP growth may be around zero per cent, which implies headline GDP rising at roughly three per cent annually.

“To achieve industrialisation, Nigeria needs to raise the adult literacy rate from 60 per cent to 70-80 per cent – which we think can happen from 2024 onwards; treble electricity consumption – which we assume requires at least a doubling of the electricity tariff, and double the investment rate from 13 per cent of GDP to 26 per cent of GDP – or triple it, to match what Ethiopia is doing.”

Robertson added, “To double the investment rate, we suggest that reforms may be needed, like removing the implicit fuel subsidy that costs about 0.5 per cent of GDP. It supports consumption and not investment.”

He said the government should “boost domestic savings and bring down interest rates which will probably require a smaller budget deficit and higher taxes, and encourage foreign direct investment, which in 2018 fell to $2.2bn, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

“Ghana got $3bn. To match Ghana (per capita), Nigeria should be getting $24bn a year. A change of approach to MTN, the oil majors and others may be required.”

According to Robertson, the naira should be allowed to trade closer to fair value, estimated today at N440/$, N470 by year-end and N670 by end-2023.

“Allowing faster currency depreciation does partly contradict point 3 on cutting interest rates,” he added.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

FIRS Sets N5.9 Trillion Revenue Target for 2021

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FIRS to Generate N5.9 Trillion Revenue  in 2021

Mohammed Nami, the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, on Friday said the agency is projecting total revenue of N5.9 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year.

Nami stated this while meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Finance led by Hon. James Falake on the Service’s 2021 budget defence of its proposed Revenue and Expenditure Estimates.

According to the Chairman, N4.26 trillion and N1.64 trillion were expected to come from non-oil and oil components, respectively.

However, Nami put the cost of collecting the projected revenue at N289.25 billion or 7 percent of the proposed total revenue for the year, higher than the N180.76 billion spent in 2020 to fund the three operational expenditure heads for the year.

He said: “Out of the proposed expenditure of N289.25 billion across the three expenditure heads, the sum of N147.08 billion and N94.97 billion are to be expended on Personnel and Overhead Costs against 2020 budgeted sum of N97.36 billion and N43.64 billion respectively. Also, the sum of N47.19 billion is estimated to be expended on capital items against the budgeted sum of N27.80 billion in 2020. The sum is to cater for on-going and new projects for effective revenue drive.

Speaking on while the agency failed to meet its 2020 target, Nami said “There’s lockdown effect on businesses, implementation directive also for us to study, research best practices on tax administration which involves travelling to overseas and we also have to expand offices and create offices more at rural areas to get closer to the taxpayers, we pay rent for those offices and this could be the reason why all these things went up.

“And if you have more staff surely, their salary will go up, taxes that you’re going to pay on their behalf will go up, the National Housing Fund contribution, PENCOM contribution will go up. Those promoted you have to implement a new salary regime for them. There’s also the issue of inflation and exchange rate differential”, he said.

 

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Gov Emmanuel Attracts $1.4b Fertilizer Plant to Akwa Ibom

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The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has signed an agreement for the citing of a multi billion fertilizer plant in his State.

Governor Emmanuel was part of a Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, that visited Morocco to set out the next steps of the $1.4 Bln fertilizer production plant project launched in June 2018.

The agreement between the OCP Africa, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the Akwa Ibom State Government will birth one of the biggest investments in the fertilizer production industry worldwide.

The signing ceremony took place at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UMP6).

Mr. Emmanuel signed one of the agreements of the partnership, which covers a memorandum of understanding between OCP Africa, the Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria and the NSIA on land acquisition, administrative facilitation, and common agricultural development projects in the Akwa Ibom State.

Speaking while signing the agreement, Governor Emmanuel said, “Our state is receptive to investments and we are prepared to offer the necessary support to make the project a reality.

“With a site that is suitably located to enable operational logistics and an abundance of gas resources, all that is left is for the parties to accelerate the project development process”, Mr. Udom said.

The agreement reached between the Nigerian Government and the OCP further links OCP, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), the NNPC, the Gas Aggregation Company Nigeria (GACN), and the NSIA.

The two partners agreed to strengthen further their solid partnership leveraging Nigerian gas and the Moroccan phosphate.

This project will lead to a multipurpose industrial platform in Nigeria, which will use Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate to produce 750,000 tons of ammonia and 1 million tons of phosphate fertilizers annually by 2025.

The visit of the Nigerian delegation to Morocco takes place within the frame of the partnership sealed between OCP Group and the Nigerian Government to support and develop Nigeria’s agriculture industry.

Following the success of the first phase of Nigeria‘s Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and the progress of the fertilizer production plant project launched in 2018 by OCP and NSIA, the Moroccan phosphates group and the Nigerian government delegation have agreed on the next steps of their joint project which is rapidly taking shape.

Several cooperation agreements were inked on Tuesday at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) by OCP Africa and the Nigerian delegation. Through these deals, OCP reaffirms its unwavering support of agricultural development initiatives in Nigeria including PFI.

OCP Africa and the NSIA have agreed, inter alia, to set up a joint venture which will oversee the development of the industrial platform that will produce ammonia and fertilizers in Nigeria.

The OCP has also pledged to supply Nigerian famers with quality fertilizers adapted to the needs of their soil at competitive prices and produced locally.

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Economy

ICPC Says Nigeria Loses $10bn to Illicit Financial Flows 

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says Nigeria accounts for 20 per cent or 10 billion dollars (N3.8 trillion) of the estimated 50 billion dollars that Africa loses to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).

Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said this during a virtual meeting to review a report on IFFs in relation to tax, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, spokesperson for ICPC, said in a statement released in Abuja on Friday.

The ICPC Chairman said, “the African Union Illicit Financial Flow Report estimated that Africa is losing nearly 50 billion dollars through profit shifting by multinational corporations and about 20 per cent of this figure is from Nigeria alone.”

The ICPC boss explained that taxes played “very strategic role in the nation’s political economy.”

He said the objective of the meeting was to improve on the awareness on IFFs, especially in the areas of taxation.

The ICPC boss added that the meeting would give participants the opportunity to openly discuss how to effectively use the instrumentality of taxation to curb IFFs through risk-based approach.

“Risk-based approach, that is: monitoring and audit; due process in tax collection; structured tax amnesty framework skewed in public interest; data privacy; timely resolution of audits and payment of tax refunds and intelligence sharing among revenue generating, regulatory and law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Owasanoye also stated that for the contemporary tax man to remain relevant, he must build his capacity in areas of technology management, solution architects and an astute relationship manager.

The Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Mr Muhammad Nani, expressed concerns that IFFs posed a serious threat to the Nigerian economy as the act robbed the nation of resources that were needed for development.

Nani declared that tackling IFFs would expand the country’s tax base and improve revenue generation, which was required for development.

He consequently pushed for policy reforms that would make it difficult for “capital flights” from occurring so that the country would be placed on the path of growth.

Other discussants at the event identified weak regulatory framework, opacity of financial system and lack of capacity amongst others as some of the factors that fuelled IFFs.

The discussants emphasised the need for capacity building of relevant stakeholders as one of the ways to stamp out illicit financial flows.

They commended ICPC for leveraging its corruption prevention mandate to open a new vista in IFFs discourse in Nigeria. (NAN)

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