W’Bank to FG: Nigeria facing existential threat

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The World Bank has urged the Federal Government to remove the current fuel subsidy regime, saying Nigeria might be facing an existential threat due to the continued payment of trillions of naira on the subsidy.

The Senior Public Sector Specialist, Domestic Resource Mobilisation, World Bank, Rajul Awasthi, gave the admonition at a virtual pre-summit on Wednesday.

Awasthi said Nigeria’s already low revenue would continue to drop if the country failed to optimise its tax system and focus on other areas to boost its revenue.

The World Bank official said: “Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and the largest country in Africa by population, so it is critical to Africa’s progress. There is no doubt about that.

“But the government of Nigeria, from the public finance perspective, is really facing an existential threat. Let’s not downplay the situation. That is the actual reality.

“Nigeria is 115th out of 115 countries in terms of the average revenue to Gross Domestic Product ratio. Despite the oil prices rising the way they have been, net oil and gas revenues have been coming down because of the tremendous impact of the subsidy.

“So, what is going to happen in 2022? The federation’s revenues are going to be significantly lower. They are already very low, and Nigeria is already the lowest in the world out of 115 large countries and this year, it’s really going to be lower than what it was in 2020 because of the debilitating impact of fuel subsidy,” he stated.

Speaking on how to tackle the existential threat, Awasthi said in the non-oil sector, Value Added Tax (VAT) compliance gaps were immense, adding that they needed to be breached.

He also called for the rationalisation of tax expenditures

He further stressed the need for technology deployment in tax administration and data sharing between the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the states’ Internal revenue services to boost the revenue from personal income tax.

It would be recalled that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in March, projected that Nigeria might spend 93 percent of its revenue on debt servicing in 2022.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, later said about 119 per cent of the country’s revenue was spent on debt servicing in the first quarter of 2022.

Zainab further stated that the Federal Government might spend N6.72tn as fuel subsidy in 2023.

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