American billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has said that Nigeria has one of the lowest domestic revenues at just six per cent of GDP compared to 15 per cent in some other countries.
This, he said, is perhaps one of the reasons why the largest black nation has a problem with providing basic health infrastructure.
Gates said this via a teleconference with select journalists ahead of the release of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers report 2019.
Responding to a question on how Nigeria could address some of its challenges, he said, “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 per cent of GDP and Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world down at about six per cent. 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.”
The Microsoft co-founder said the government also needed to do more to gain the confidence of the people because the citizens could be discouraged from paying taxes if they see that taxes are not being properly utilised.
He added, “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.”
Gates lamented that many countries that were not as wealthy as Nigeria had better health care systems.
“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,” he said.
The philanthropist said now that the country had virtually defeated polio, his foundation would look at strengthening health care centres.
He said his foundation had been collaborating with Aliko Dangote in helping Nigeria to address some of its challenges.
Gates said he holds video conferences with at least six northern governors regularly, adding that there were some things northern Nigeria could learn from the South.
Nigeria and other African nations had in 2001 signed the Abuja Declaration which seeks to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to improve the health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support.
Over 18 years later, Nigeria has failed to do so.
The country still has one of the world’s worst health indicators
The Federal Government had last week announced plans to increase Value Added tax from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent, a move that has sparked outrage especially among the organised labour.