By Merit Ibe
While appreciating the intent and objective of the 2022 fiscal policy approved for implementation from April 1, the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE) has recommended that policy measures be released alongside the Finance and the Appropriation Acts.
The centre, which said this would facilitate planning, reduce uncertainty, minimise investment risk and boost investors’ confidence, proposed that the fiscal policy should be released effective from January 1.
Commending the grace period of 90 days that was provided for the implementation of the tariff component of fiscal policy and the Finance Ministry for creating this transition window to minimise the shocks of fiscal policy changes on investors, the CEO of the Centre, Dr Muda Yusuf said he was concerned about the red tape inherent in getting approvals from the Federal Ministry of Finance for importation of items with concessionary import duty.
“We would like to see the removal of these bottlenecks. While appreciating the essence of the National list, we would like to propose that access to fiscal incentives should be devoid of bottlenecks and bureaucracy.”
Yusuf lamented that the experience of importers and the business community with seeking approvals from the Ministries before the fiscal incentives can be enjoyed was often fraught with frustrating bureaucracy, bottlenecks, delays and sometimes extortion. He therefore recommended that once the Fiscal Policy document had been approved by government, the Nigeria Customs Service should be left to fully implement these policies without further recourse to the Ministry for additional approvals.
“We believe that the Customs is competent enough to interpret the Fiscal Policy and determine eligibility for fiscal incentives. The idea of seeking approval and exemption certificates from Ministry of Finance or any other Ministry is not consistent with the spirit of the Ease of Doing Business and should therefore be discontinued.”
The CPPE boss complimented removal from export prohibition list of items that were previously imported into the country and the approval by government of import duty and VAT exemptions on critical medical supplies especially for COVID interventions.
Although the policy stipulates that the waivers and exemptions would only last till the end of 2022, Yusuf submitted that these concessions should last beyond 2022 due to cost of healthcare in Nigeria which is extremely high and it is making access to healthcare very difficult for majority of its citizens.
“In the absence of a comprehensive health insurance scheme many citizens pay out of pocket and this has made access to medicare very difficult.
“Access to healthcare is a critical component of human capital development. Therefore, the cheaper, the easier the access, the better for human capital development. We therefore submit that this concession should last beyond 2022.
On the imposition of excise duty, he said it makes Nigeria products more expensive relative to products from the neighbouring countries who are in the same economic community with Nigeria.
Yusuf noted that the implication is that Nigerian industrialists will lose market share to countries in the West African sub region under the ECOWAS trade liberalisation scheme because the cost of production in the country is much higher and the imposition of excise duty would make domestically produced products more expensive.
“There is also the welfare implication of the citizens whose incomes have been highly bartered by the high inflationary pressure.
We therefore appeal once again that the timing of the imposition of excise duty of selected manufacturing firms is in auspicious and should therefore be suspended to demonstrate greater sensitivity to the plight of manufacturers in the Nigerian economy.”