Stuart Symington, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, has attributed poor social infrastructure development in Nigeria to the weak system of tax collection in the Country.
Symington made this known on Tuesday, while speaking at the 10th anniversary colloquium of the Nigerian Development Finance Forum, organised by Financial Nigeria Magazine in Abuja.
He blamed the Federal Government’s inability to discontinue subsidy and allow market forces determine electricity tariffs for Nigeria poor social service delivery system.
The U.S. ambassador said that the inability of government to eliminate subsidy on petroleum products and failure to hands off the fixing of electricity tariffs was hampering the provision of critical social infrastructure in the country.
He also attributed the low investment in the social services sector by government at all levels on low revenue from taxes and inefficient tax system.
According to him, the decision of the country to continue to transfer public funds to keep petrol pump price at lower levels, as well as electricity rates below cost-recovery levels, means that less funds were available to fund education, healthcare and other social sector services.
“One proximate cause of poor health, education and nutrition standards is low public expenditures. This in turn is related to very low public revenues due in fact to low tax rates and weak systems for tax collections.
“Low social spending is also as a result of transfers from government to petroleum and power sectors because fuel and electricity tariffs are below cost recovery levels.
“Fiscal, trade and other micro-economic policies tend to act as breaks on private sector initiatives on economic growth. Weak governance due to inadequate capacities or lacks of checks and balances also slows social and economic development.” He said
Symington was represented by Country Mission Director of the US Agency for International Development, USAID, Stephen Haykin.