2020 Budget: Ben Kalu Commends Buhari, Urges Timely Passage


…makes case for reduction of tax burden on Nigerians, revenue generalization

…wants a better business environment for local investors, made-in-Nigeria products patronized

Member representing Bende Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Hon Benjamin Kalu, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring the timely submission of the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.

President Buhari had on Tuesday presented the 2020 budget estimate of N10.729 trillion to a joint session of the ninth National Assembly in Abuja, Naijatell reports.

The Abia state lawmaker during a debate on the budget estimate at plenary, said the early submission will facilitate its quick passage by the National Assembly.

The early passage, he said, will return the country’s budget cycle to the January-December timeline as provided by the Constitution.

Kalu, while making a case for the budget estimates, said the insistence of the Parliament on January-December cycle, was in the best interest of the country.

“Many wonder why we are insisting on this January-December cycle”, he said, adding, “when the budget is presented on time, it raises the confidence of the private sector to understand the direction to go [with their own budget], having known where the government is headed.”

Kalu said “a delay in budget presentation, depresses the economy for about 2.5 per cent.” “So that is the reason I am commending the executive led by Mr President for this great gesture. I also commend the House for working with them to achieve this”, he added.

The lawmaker, however, added that it would be out of place to discuss about the 2020 budget estimates, without having a little appraisal of the 2019 budget.

According to him, “The Executive recorded certain things [in the budget documents] as regards the performance of the 2019 budget, which demands commendation as well.”

One of them, he said, was the digitalization of tax collection, which he insisted made the collection of taxes corruption-free and more transparent than ever before.

“We really commend them for that. But suffice this to say that, over the years, about ten years now, Nigeria has not been able to meet her tax revenue target, and this did not start with President Muhammadu Buhari. During former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, it was still difficult for us to meet our revenue target.

“One begins to wonder, why does this happen from time to time. And you know the current budget is also proposing a particular tax revenue expectation which is going to amount to more tax burden on the people.

“What does it do to a developing economy like ours? What it does is that economic activities are reduced, and when economic activities are reduced, it leads to unemployment. It leads to poverty. It leads to a lesser home expenditure which ultimately leads to less productivity. And when there is less productivity, it gives rise to less revenue from tax.

“…And it is going to continue like this, unless we have a paradigm shift from what it is now, to what it ought to be, by looking at this tax regime that the government is bringing on board and see what we can do to shift it a little bit.

“On the 2020 budget, I commend the government for setting out priorities as well, especially as it concerns investments in critical infrastructure. One of their priority is on human capital development, including safeguarding the private-sector investments. These are some of the priorities which have been set up by the government, which are indeed laudable and worth commending.

“…But my only problem with these is the current business environment that we operate on, what we are doing at the moment, the current reforms. Is it going to allow these priorities to take place? It is high time Nigeria begin to copy from countries like Rwanda who has taken efforts to reform their business environment to the extent that productivity has been encouraged. Rwanda at the moment is the only country in Africa that has started the manufacturing of cellphone from start to finish. We can do it.

“I, however, commend the government for supporting local industries like Innoson motors in 2019. I observed that most of the military officers in the country are operating Innoson vehicles. If the business environment is to be reformed in a manner that our local products will be patronized, I can assure you that more employments will be created, and there will be a shift from this over-dependent on oil to the non-oil sector.”

Hon Benjamin Kalu, therefore, commended the government for introducing an estimate [in the 2020 budget] “that shows that non-oil tax revenue will be at N1.81 trillion, as against N2.64 trillion for oil revenue.”

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