American business magnate, Bill Gates, in a recent meeting, disclosed that Nigeria still has some of the smallest tax-to-GDP ratios anywhere in the world.
Speaking with journalists Gates stated that the government needs to gain credibility with the people so as to ensure that citizens pay their taxes.
“One challenge that Nigeria has is that the amount of money that the government raises domestically is quite small compared to other countries. A lot of countries at that level will be raising closer to 15 percent of GDP and Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world down at about 6 percent.
And so, it is a huge challenge that when you want to fund infrastructure, health, education, all those things, that over time the tax collection, the domestic resources are going to have to go up quite a bit.
That’s a long-term effort and I think partly by making sure the current resources are spent well like on primary health care, you gain the credibility that the citizens will say, okay, we want more of these things.
“If we don’t raise the quality, you can get into a trap where they don’t feel like paying the taxes actually has that much impact, and so they’re not supportive of that” he said.
Gate continued as he highlighted his wish for Nigeria.
“If I had one wish for Nigeria, it would be that the quality and funding of the primary health care system would achieve the level of some other countries that are lower income but have done a better job with the primary health care system. So, it definitely is doable.
“In Nigeria for a lot of the work we do there we’re partnered with Aliko Dangote, who helps us understand who the good partners are and exactly how we can reach out to groups like the traditional leaders and get them involved in these efforts as well.
“I do a regular phone call with six of the governors in the north of Nigeria to talk about the statistics on their primary health care system, getting the workers there, getting the vaccine supply right, getting the mothers to show up, so that we get antenatal care to be better, we get vaccination rates to be better.
“And it’s really the digital tools that let us, you know, every time we meet and talk, we have a sense of, okay, what’s gone well in the last six months, what hasn’t, and what do we need to change.”