By Emeka Uzoatu
Had to pinch myself the other day as it slowly dawned on me that the year 2020 was slowly on its way out. Sadly, like all the other years in all our old rolling plans, it appears to have also missed it’s expected target(s). With barely three months of it to spare, all a guy has to undertake now is it’s postmortem.
And nohow else than via the government-of-the-day’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Like no plan else, it has mostly served to asphyxiate all the spare currency in our pockets.
Originally, it is a medium-term plan for 2017-2020. Meaning that by its approaching expiry date it was to have restored the nation’s retarded economic growth. And this by ‘leveraging the ingenuity and resilience of Nigerian people – the nation’s most priceless assets.’
According to the document that enunciated it, unless this was followed to its core, our recessed economy was likely to remain on a path of steady decline. Thus, it pleaded, only by following it’s somewhat rugged tenets would something have been done towards changing the ‘negative trajectory’ our economy was embedded in.
To imagine that this was envisaged before the advent of Covid19 epidemic sure boggles the mind. Why? Because our government’s minders have not thought it wise that it’s due for review instanta!
Anyway, to achieve this grand plan, the government had planned to drive industrialization by focusing on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. They also hoped it would accelerate the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP). Like planned, by its expiration by the end of this year our change government would have created some 1.5 million jobs via export promotion, growth boosting and the upgrading of skills.
Well, perhaps it’s yet early to arrive conclusions as the wheel is yet a-spin. But we can hazard some guesses. After all, like our denigrated elders say, a child that will run must first walk.
From all indices available, our government’s recovery plan started stumbling from its first hurdle – funding. On paper it appeared quite fond. The highlights, that is. Like the rather rotund first call that boasted their intention of ramping up oil production to as many as 2.5 million barrels per day also by this dying year. As if the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) no longer allocated quotas according to the needs of the whole.
Perhaps it has met its stipulated goal then? Any which way, there’s always an explanation by the government through its numerous spokespersons. However, whether it’s the previous government or world politics, the truth remains that banking on the oil industry is now akin to betting on the pools.
All the more so as all our minders had hoped on was a revamp of our local refineries. Their avowed aim was to reduce petrol importation by a whopping 60 per cent. And this by 2018! Today all we are now waiting for is the completion of private refineries and,or the sale of the public ones.
As though to make matters worse, second in their much-touted revenue sources for the ERGP happens to be taxation. For this VAT was raised from 5 to 7.5 percent. Next in the highfalutin scheme was the enforcement of a strict tax regime they had hoped to raise as much as 350 million annually by. The intention being aimed at unilaterally achieving a higher tax to GDP ratio from a megre 6 to as much as 15 per cent within the span.
Following this thrashing the oil aspect of the revenue sourcing had taken, the government was left with only the taxation alternative. And for this all the earlier talk about the ease of doing business appeared to have been thrown to the winds.To add salt to the simmering injury, tax is now imposed on corporations regardless of their individual books.
Yet overtime we have been schooled that taxation is only levied on profit.
Ever since, all we’ve been left with is a determined stifling of the few small, medium and big scale businesses that have managed to survive the ensuing miasma. If anything, taxes were now allocated in quintuples. The federal taxes apart, businesses are also forced to cope with those from state and local governments in all kinds of guises.
In this post-covid world, it has now become mandatory that each entity should pay through its nose even in the throes of a lockdown. Talk of palliatives had since become an offence worse than original sin. O yes, after all Adam had Eve to blame. Simplified, the people must take care of leaders first before themselves.
Even in these days when the mattering of lives have come to the fore the world over, it may be pertinent here to add that of our corporate entities to the mix.
Yes, those of our black brothers overseas may top the list, but what’s good for the goose will never be otherwise for the gander. All things being equal, as the economist in the house would amplify, it’s time we realized that the only road there is to economic recovery for us is in making the life of our corporate organisations matter.
Viewed however by whomever, the truth remains that it’s from these corporations that families win their bread from. A situation where most companies are being sucked underground does not augur well for the nation’s survival.
Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.