Interview: Akinwunmi Ambode
How is the government working with the private sector to help finance infrastructure projects?
AKINWUNMI AMBODE: The infrastructure deficit in Lagos State has been estimated to be at least $50bn. Due to its limited resources and wide-ranging priorities, the Lagos State Government (LASG) cannot resolve this deficit alone. Thus, we created the Office of Overseas Affairs and Investment as a one-stop shop to attract foreign direct investments, stimulate the economy and improve the ease of doing business in Lagos State.
This administration is also looking to enter into more public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a strategy to deliver key state government projects. We already have the Public-Private Partnership Law of 2011 to facilitate the use of PPPs in the procurement of projects.
What is the LASG’s main economic goal?
AMBODE: We are working to increase the monthly internally generated revenue from the current level of N23bn ($81.3m) to a more sustainable level of about N50bn ($176.7m) by 2018. The LASG will continue enhancing existing revenue streams with the help of technology and we will explore new avenues to drive and sustain revenue growth in the medium to long term.
How will the administration increase tax revenue?
AMBODE: Efforts to increase the tax base of Lagos State focus mainly on simplifying and updating taxpaying processes. However, we lack information on the number of unskilled and undocumented low-income earners, which makes monitoring extremely difficult. We have also observed that some taxpayers keep different financial records for different tax authorities and that there is a low-compliance culture among citizens.
Thus, the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service is employing a number of initiatives, including using multi-modal payment portals to encourage voluntary tax payment; updating paperwork requirements to facilitate filing processes; overhauling the process of calculating the number of taxable persons in the informal sector; campaigning to educate taxpayers on their civic obligations; and opening new tax stations while relocating existing ones to increase their accessibility.
What major projects are currently under way, and how will they benefit the citizens of Lagos?
AMBODE: We are improving the bus rapid transit system with new terminals, while also developing light rail and water transport terminals. These networks, along with the construction of lay-bys, slip roads and flyover bridges – as well as improvements in signalisation and junctions – are expected to result in significant reductions in traffic congestion and travel time for commuters. Notably, new and ongoing transport reform will also entail the systematic phasing out of the yellow minibuses from our major highways, to be replaced with modern medium-to-mass transit buses. This administration recently raised N87bn ($307.5m) through a bond issuance and part of the proceeds are expected to be utilised for these projects.
We take security very seriously, as such, we established the Lagos State Security Trust Fund. Through this fund, the LASG has made significant investments into maintaining and improving public safety through the acquisition of security equipment and instruments, such as motor vehicles, helicopters, speed boats, and arms and ammunition, among others. We also plan to install CCTV cameras at strategic locations across the state; set up control and command centres; and construct a forensics laboratory. The “Light Up” Lagos project is also improving security throughout the state by ensuring adequate visibility at night.
In response to the current housing shortage, this administration has rolled out a number of housing projects. Through the rent-to-own initiative, more low-income Lagosians are able to become homeowners. The LASG is also interested in using PPP arrangements in this area to deliver additional affordable housing units.
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