The National Leader of All Progressive Congress (APC) and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu has called on the Federal Government not to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT).
According to him, a new VAT regime will increase the burden of Nigerians. What should be done, he said, is to widen the tax net for more people to pay.
Speaking at an event in Abuja to mark his birthday, Tinubu noted that the time had come for Nigeria to look inward and initiate people-friendly policies. He warned that there were clear indications of the global economy gradually going into recession.
According to him, forecasters have been predicting that the global economy will go into recession within the next 12 to 18 months.
The audience applauded as Tinubu spoke. It was all at the 11th Bola Tinubu Colloquium at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja in commemoration of his 67th birthday.
He advised the government to revisit the privatisation of the power sector for a faster industrial development and job creation. Besides, said Tinubu, estimated billing should stop.
He said: “I want to appeal to Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President and his team to put a huge question mark on any increase on VAT. If you reduce the purchasing power of the people, we can further slow down the economy.
“Let us widen the tax net. Those who are not paying now, even if they are relatives of Bola Tinubu, let the net be bigger and we take in more taxes. That is what we must do in the country instead of another layer of taxes, for now.”
Speaking on the need to industrialise the country, Tinubu said: “We require serious and bold reforms to achieve this. What is happening to our gas pipelines? Whatever we have to invest now for our future is a task that must be done boldly. The PDP administration shared out generation, distribution and transmission to their friends and cronies without very deep and thoughtful research and evaluation.
“It has now become pork chops. This privatisation must be revisited. Put experts together for a more constructive reform to improve generation, transmission and distribution by any means necessary. We cannot afford to be too legalistic about this.
”We should push to end the practice of billing people for electricity they never received. This practice is a vestige of the past that should not accompany us into the future. A person should be charged accurately and only for the power that they use.
“Government should continue to aggressively implement its national infrastructure plan. We must commit ourselves to a national highway system linking our major cities and towns, our centres of commerce, with each other. This will save lives, spur commerce, cut costs and bring Nigerians closer together.”
He said: “The Next Level is not just a trendy campaign phrase to be quickly discarded once victory has been achieved. It has a much deeper and more profound meaning, perhaps even more than its authors contemplated. This is because we are a nation still in the process of defining itself politically and economically.
“In this process, it is tempting and easy to borrow indiscriminately from those nations that seem to have mastered the art of democratic governance and to have achieved economic prosperity. However, to achieve durable progress, we can’t afford to work hard but in mindless devotion to the ways of other nations.
“This truth is particularly acute when these very nations now face fundamental political and economic questions that cast doubt on the social utility and viability of the economic model under which they have travelled for the past 50 years.”
He told the gathering that the global economy was facing stiff headwinds as “factors that are not of our making now cast the world economy towards low growth”.
“Consumer spending is slipping. Aggregate private debt has attained historic levels. America and China are in a trade tug-of-war. Brexit is imminent. Whatever form Brexit takes, economic dislocation will emerge from the political confusion now underway.
“Even without Brexit, the EU itself has entered a rough patch. The Eurozone may already be in recession. Stock markets experience wild swings that speak to an underlying weakness and pessimism about the immediate future. Forecasters are predicting a global recession within the next 12-18 months.
“I render these observations not to frighten anyone, but because they ring true. Wisdom requires that we accept reality instead of obscuring it under the cloak of wishful thinking. We must build policies that interact with the world as it is, and not with the world as it should be.”
He went on: “Nigerians must recognise a fundamental truth of our time. The economic model upon which the world is built is unravelling. The coming downturn is just a symptom of this great upheaval. The global economy faces either genuine reform or gathering ruin.
“Because of this, the economic cohesion of Western nations is weakening. Income inequality has reached levels unseen in a century. The middle class in most countries is shrinking. Wages stagnate while prices are on a ceaseless march upward.
“People the world over are questioning the centre-right conservative model that has, with few exceptions, governed the world for the last half century. In one form or another, people are protesting the way things are, and progressive politicians are trying to help the people change things for the better.”