Former United States President, Mr. George W. Bush, has tasked leaders in Nigeria and other African countries on tackling corruption, as he noted it would earn them the confidence of the masses.
Bush said this in his opening remarks at the “Access Conference 2013: Embracing Sustainable Leadership,” organised by Access Bank Plc in Lagos Thursday.
According to the former US president, in order for democracy to thrive in Nigeria, there was need for accountability.
“I think it is very important to hold people to account. During my administration, I was a strong believer that it is very important to earn confidence in people by busting corruption. Seven congressmen in my party were jailed because they were corrupt.
“My advice is to have clear rules that enforce without prejudice and hold government account to honor the people by ensury that their money would be protected by the law,” he declared.
Asked on how best to enforce tax laws, Bush said there was need to balance the role of the public sector and that of the private sector.
“When I was president, I felt it was important to invigorate the private sector. In my country, most of the jobs were made by small businesses, many small businesses are corporated as limited partnership or entities that pay individual tax rates and therefore dropping individual income tax rates will increase private sector growth.
“I think it is important not to overtax capital investors. It is important to reward capital investors. I think it is very important for a country that people are paying their own fair share of taxes in all levels of government and income strand. Try to simplify the tax code so everyone gets to understand the tax code laws and the tax responsibilities.”
Speaking further, Bush said: “I believe that taxes are important for economic growth. During my administration, revenues increased as a result of taxes because it is the private sector that supplies the tax revenues to the US treasury because it is the public sector that spends money that generates revenues.
“In Nigeria, the tax codes are good. I would hope you would look at it to make sure that the tax codes encourage participation.”
Also speaking, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said there was need to pay more attention on systems, processes and institutions that would help develop the country.
“If you ask me about the difference between us, a lot of developing and developed countries on this issue of sustainable leadership, it is that absence of institutions. My usual test is to ask people if they know who the president of Switzerland is?
“Most people don’t know, but everybody rush to Switzerland to put their money there. To me, sustainable leadership is creating trust, creating institutions, trust, processes and having the human capital to carry on,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
Similarly, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, pointed out that there was need to eliminate avenues for rent-seeking, such as subsidies and discretionary decisions in the country.
According to him, with appropriate regulations, it would be difficult for leaders to take advantage of situations in their country for personal benefit.
“Another thing is what kind of questions do we ask them and what kind of demands do we make as followers? What are our priorities when choosing leaders? Institutions are very important, but individuals are also important.
“You have a state, you have a ministry, you have a central bank, you have the presidency and you have a government. The institutions are there, the laws are there. But no matter how strong an institution is, a weak leader weakens it. So it is important to match the person to the role and make sure that everything is focused on merit,” he said.