The Acting Chairman of the House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Rotimi Olowo has defended the N1.046 Trillion Budget estimate for Y 2018.
Speaking in an interview, Olowo said that the state government would expand it’s tax net in the year and give tac holidays to foreign companies for more investments.
He addresses the issues relating to the 2018 budget in this interview he granted us in his office.
Let us start with the 2017 Budget that the Governor said would perform 85% by the end of December. How would you describe this?
Basically, you should know that we ought to have performed 100% but we did not get enough revenue from the Federal Government. Also, you should understand that we are just coming out of recession. The price of crude is going down in the international market, which is why the revenue from the Federal Government dropped.
Having said that, we have not been covering some areas on taxation because we don’t want to overtax the poor, so we are trying to reorganise our tax system.
You would discover that a lot of rich people are evading tax, but the Governor has been positive about this and some people have been given ultimatum.
Actually, we are giving tax holidays to some companies to attract foreign investors, but it behoves on the companies that have been here for five or 10 years to pay their taxes. We cannot overtax the poor, so we are going to expand our tax system.
To me, we should close our eyes to the federation account and see what we can do to make the people of Lagos prosperous and make life better for them.
You can see what we are doing through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), which is going to be better next year.
If our youths have access to money, we will be spreading prosperity and they will have more money and when you ask them for tax they would willingly pay.
We want to re-organise our economy to empower the youth. Many of them are roaming about the streets because there is no job and many of them are technically inclined. If they don’t have access to money, how would they live a better life. So we are going to emphasize to the executive the need to empower the youth so that they can begin to get engaged in productive ventures. That would allow for more taxes to come in.
How realistic will the 2018 Budget be since the 2017 budget that was about N800 Billion did not perform up to 90%, now we are talking of about N1 Trillion, will it be realised?
I have just told you why we did not perform up to 100% in 2017. What is coming from the federation account was not much. Also, we want to improve on our tax regime now.
We are going to be more aggressive with our tax collection in 2018.
Many rich people are not paying tax, many companies are not paying tax, so they are going to be brought to book. Many of the regulations we are talking about would be reviewed. What some people are paying for land use charges in GRA, Ikoyi, Lekki and Banana Island is nothing to write home about. We are not fair to the poor. It should be progressive taxation, it should not be retrogressive.
Let the rich pay more money, we want to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor to allow for egalitarianism.
The rich have been oppressing the poor. So, in 2018, there would be a reversal. 80% of rich Nigerians live in Lagos, be it businessmen or senators and others live in Banana Island, Lekki, GRA and other highbrow places.
Somebody, who has a car of N8 million and is paying just N5,000 for registration, that is just meagre. The registration for such a car should not be less than N100,000, those are the things we are looking at.
We are going to work with the Governor on that to ensure that we bridge the gap between the poor and the rich by taxing the rich and the poor appropriately. What we are saying is in tandem with Section 14, sub-section 2b of the 1999 Constitution as amended. The government is for the welfare of the people. Do you see any rich man coming out to vote for us, it is the poor that vote for us. It is the poor that we should take care of.
The economy of Lagos State is more than N1 Trillion. 65% of commercial activities in Nigeria takes place in Lagos.
We are in recession, but Lagos is doing well. If Lagos State catches cold then Nigeria will be in trouble. We need to come up with a budget that can accommodate the people.
Lagos economy is second to that of Nigeria in Africa, so if Nigeria is number 7 in Africa, then Lagos will be number 8 in Africa.
The budget is coming late, how soon will it be ready?
That is not within me, it is the leadership of the House that would determine that. We are ready to work.
There seems to be cordiality between the executive of the Lagos State Government and the assembly. What is the secret, is it because the executive is doing well?
You have said it all. They are doing well, all we need to do is to complement them. The three arms of government must work interdependently. If the Governor is doing well, then they are meeting our demands. What we do is representation, we have the people around us. The executive must be doing well in the area of provision of infrastructure and others. I don’t believe that we must be fighting the executive or that they must give us some kind of special attention. The only thing is that we approve funds for them and the money must be spent according to the law to meet the needs and the yearnings of the people.
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