BY JAYE GASKIA
Towards the end of 2019, the regime at the Federal Level initiated a new practice of introducing to the National Assembly, along with the proposals for the 2020 Federal budget, a Finance Bill which addressed the revenue source to fund the 2020 budget. Both bills eventually became the 2020 Appropriation Act and the 2020 Finance Act. This has been repeated for 2021.
Why are these important policies that we must reckon with? The answer is simple really. The first, the Appropriation Act, lays out the public expenditure and investment framework of the regime for 2021. The second lays out the framework for addressing some of the revenue challenges to fund the expenditure for the same year.
And because the regime, and the entire ruling class, have concluded that the economy has a revenue crisis, the focus of the regime has been towards increasing sources of revenue by increasing taxes. This has a vastly disproportionate, deleterious and impoverishing impact on ordinary citizens. It is also proposing to significantly increase user fees and tariffs for basic services with the same result.
The alternative could have been blocking revenue leakages, ensuring returns on investment and sanctioning financial mismanagement in government owned enterprises. These have, for instance failed to pay into the Federation Account more than N10tn in statutory surplus remittances (that by themselves would pay for all government spending in 2020). Existing laws could also be implemented to collect revenues and corporate taxes that are being owed to the Government by profitable companies.
The whole essence of the Finance Act is to squeeze revenue out of the meagre earnings and economic conditions of the working people. This includes the so-called deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector and the consequent permanent upward rise in prices of fuel and other petroleum products. It also includes the so-called deregulation of the power sector, and the consequent periodic hiking of electricity tariff.
Additionally, composite unemployment rate among the general population rose to over 50% at the end of the second quarter of 2020, with the percentage among youth aged 15 to 35 years rising to over 63% over the same period. Thus, on the average 1 in 2 Nigerians are out of work, while 3 in 5 youths are out of work.
It is no wonder that poverty has continued to rise steeply, with more than 40% of the population, that is more than 80 million people, living in abject poverty at the end of March 2020, according to government figures. Additionally, and according to government official figures, there are nearly 120 million citizens living in poor or inhumane housing conditions or are actually homeless.
What history has shown however, and this was clearly demonstrated with the #EndSARS Youth Rebellion of October 2020, is that as exploitation and oppression deepens, resistance intensifies, and repression is further consolidated.
The left, the activist movement, need to consolidate our organising and mobilising activities, all through the year, coordinating our interventions in the struggles of our people, building solidarity, and enabling increasingly greater and more potent collective popular mass action of the working people, and the toiling masses.
The transition from 2020 to 2021 has already given an indication of the nature and trajectory of the class struggle in 2021. There will be more workers strike actions, more organised protests actions on the part of the disillusioned and increasingly angry popular masses, across the country.
Building the resistance, will involve consolidating all these struggles, politically focusing the anger, enabling the emergence of an Alternative Political process and Platform. The over all impact is that the quality of life of ordinary citizens have been witnessing constant and steep decline; with inflation rising consistently over more than 18 months and reaching new highs of nearly 15% in November 2020.
So, this is the year that we should not hesitate to take strike action, to unleash workers power, to organise collective action, and to energise a new radical politics, and engender a new radical and revolutionary political alternative.