We think there is too much schism about in this country. There is mutual suspicion, distrust everywhere and the one that worries us most is government paranoia against business.
We feel strongly to write about this again because we think that for far too long this paranoia has held Nigeria in a bad way. We think that it is about time that both government and business began to cosy up for the purpose of economic development and growth. We think that they should jointly be doing great things for the good of the country and the benefit to citizens.
We have stated for the umpteenth time that we recognise the dominant role that politics has played in our national life. Of course, we also recognise that politics is seen largely for its enablement for power capture. But still, we believe that once power is captured, while politics of retaining power should continue to play at the back of the minds of capturers of power, it should not becloud everything else, especially the need to create prosperity that would allow the benefit of good governance reach the people, by touching their lives in a very positive way.
We would like to see big business minded people in government, not people whose minds are narrowed in their understanding of business and its place in the economic wellbeing of society, by their own special interests and the need to protect them; at the expense of all else.
We like to ask why does the Nigerian government, of whatever hue, like to play the aloof game when it comes to its choices of partners to work with to fix the economy? We ask this question because we have noticed that, year-in year-out, there appears to be an unspoken acceptance in government that business is the enemy and that it is not supposed to be befriended. Yet, government likes to talk about the taxes that business needs to pay, and goes on to make policies that ensures that it collects what is due it; but worries less about what is due business as a result of paying its taxes faithfully. Instead, what you find is that when government is looking for a weeping boy or weeping girl to task, it wastes no time in seeking to punish business by laying more burden on its doorsteps.
We even think there is a lot of disrespect for business by the political class, something, we believe, is partly responsible for the state we are in. Politicians do a lot of damage to this country not only by their corrupt nature and bad management of state resources, they make matters worse in their attitudes towards business. For a class, few of whom know barely enough to manage successful businesses of their own, who are permanently loitering around the political scene with a lifelong survival quotient on political patronage, it is rich to hear them accuse business of wrong doing, piling on the pressure on business that is barely surviving in a badly managed economy.
This government particularly has a penchant for bar raising when it comes to its distrust of business. It thinks that business is partly, if not largely, responsible for our economic predicament. That’s why as soon as it came into power and began to make all the noise about tax-to-GDP ratio, it went on a hunting expedition, and hunting down business became a game for which no rational thought was allowed to play a role. “Business does not pay tax, let’s get them,” became a swan song and it went all out making sure that it chased business into a hole, until some found that they could no longer cope and gave up.
It is our view that government lacks compassion for so many things. It lacks compassion for its citizens; it lacks compassion of business; it lacks compassion for entrepreneurs! All it wants to do is collect what it decides is due it, but never stopping to work on its own obligations to business and citizens. The Nigerian governments disdain for business makes it think that business actually does nothing, only profiteering. It does not really believe that business goes through hardship, because it does not take out time to understand where business is coming from. Hence, when business says to government, “hold your peace, just work on creating an enabling environment for us to do our business and we shall create prosperity for all,” government doesn’t get it, because it likes to pretend that it does not understand. Maybe in truth it truly doesn’t understand.
Businesses pay taxes as well as the owners that build those businesses. While government acts as if they don’t do this, the truth is that the tax burden falls heaviest on businesses and business owners. We are talking about people that actually built their own businesses from the ground up that help the economy stay alive.
Politicians and their technocrat conspirators like to pretend they don’t know that business and business owners or entrepreneurs take all the risk, drain their life savings, and sacrifice their time and energy and families to take an idea and mould it into a real profit generating business. If they as much as succeed a little they employ people, buy generators (because unproductive government can’t provide electricity), business rents offices and pays taxes. It pays all manner of taxes that government never gets satisfied with – it pays federal, state and local government taxes, including arbitrary taxes that are sometimes imposed. They also pay PAYE, pay excise duties, and many more.
We are miffed that government doesn’t sit down to think deep about all of these. We are amazed that government still likes to be aloof, bigheaded; and it likes to forget that there are businesses and business owners that are merely trying to survive and make a profit. Instead of bullying them for building something and accuse them of not paying enough tax, why doesn’t government just sit up and start implementing policies and reforms that distribute the burden more fairly across businesses by using progressive tax or reform structures and closing loopholes. Small businesses and start-ups need more cash to be able to seize opportunities, so they need to pay significantly less taxes.