Struggling states and towns got a dose of badly needed money this summer from a Cash for Clunkers program that poured hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue into their budgets.
Now, like the auto industry, recession-ravaged government are seeing revenue fall off as car buyers take a breather from the frenzied sales of July and August. That means less money for schools, roads, public safety and other projects that get much of their funding from states tax collections.
And while officials welcomed the shot in the arm, the extra clunkers money won’t come close to filling the gaping holes in their budgets or do much to solve the worst revenue downturn in decades.
“It is chump change,” said David Zin, an economist with the Michigan state senate’s fiscal agency.
State and city officials say their budget problems are too severe for one government programme to fix.
“Fifty-thousand is not to be sneezed at,” Dean Rich, finance director of O’Fallon, III, said of the city expected tax gain from its 16 car dealerships. But it’s not enough to prevent a job freeze and cuts to capital project for the town of 29,000 people.
“It’s not the windfall that is going to fix the $1 million shortage we have this year” he said.
Like most governments, O’Fallon suffered during the recession as people facing job losses, reduced pay, lost homes and general unease over the ecoomy snapped their wallets shut. That means big drops in sales tax, which makes up around half of many state budgets. Sales of cars and trucks, big-ticket items with high price tags, are a big component of sales tax collections.
Cash for Clunkers held some promise-customers bought nearly 700,000 new vehicles during late July and August, taking advantage of rebates of up to $4,500 on new cars in return for trading in their older vehicles. The programme ended up tripling the size of tis orginal $1 billion price tag due to its broad popularity. For government budget offices, that represented some rare good news.
The auto forecaster Edmunds.com estimated that the average clunker sales price was $26,321, meaning roughly $18 billion worth of new vehicles were sold under the programme. Multiplied by the average combined state and local sales tax of 7.5 per cent, the total tax bill amounts to a loose estimate of $1.36 billion.
But here’s some perspective – the budget shortfall of Michigan alone, the symbolic heartland of the U.S. auto industry, amounts to $2.8 billion. And it pales in comparison to the $240 billion that states collected in total general sales taxes in 2008.
“That’s more than a drop in the bucket…but not much more for state budgets,” said Robert Ward, director of fiscal studies for the Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York.
The taxes brought in by clunkers offered a summer shot of adrenaline for most states. The funds – often earmarked for school aid, highway repairs and law enforcement – came at a time when they were struggling with big shortfalls.
Kentucky reported that clunkers taxes propped up its Road Fund, which supports the state’s network of roadways. Motor vehicle usage taxes grew 11.4 per cent to $36 million in August, helping keep the fund flat for the month. The state estimates it can now afford to see receipts fall more than 4 per cent for the rest of fiscal year and still meet its budget forecasts.
Legislative estimates in Michigan show the state may have taken in $39 million from Cash for Clunkers. About a third of that money is devoted to education.
Massachusetts reported that motor vehicle sales tax revenue rose nearly 36 per cent in August from a year earlier, higher than the state’s monthly target. That gain, combined with a rise in the overall sales tax that month, pushed vehicle tax collections above the monthly goal.
The extra money may be a help, but state budget officials say it’s minor compared with their huge problems.
Kentucky officials have warned that until unemployment improves – about 11 per cent of states residents are now jobless – tax revenues will remain in the doldrums.
In Michigan, where the states sales tax is the major source of aid for schools, lawmakrers proposed cutting $218 per pupil from the aid the state government gives to local school districts. That’s despite the clunkers money and extra vehicle sales tax revnue from laid off auto workers who got vouchers for new cars as part of their severance. Sales tax collections are still down 9 per cent.
Auto sales nationally fell 41 per cent from August to September, a drop caused largely by people who would have normally waited a few months to buy a new vehicle rushing in to take advantage of the federal programme’s big rebates.
That hangover showed up in Massachusetts sales tax collections last month, which were 5 per cent below forecasts. That worries Robert Bliss, a spokesman for the state revenue department.
“Has the pool been drained as a result of this programme for the next couple of months? That is the question,” he said.
Nigerians Spend N2.6trn On Data, Airtime In Nine Months
MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa have revealed that the amount spent on airtime and data by Nigerian telecom subscribers rose to at least N2.59 trillion in the first nine months of 2023.
According to the financial statements of the two telecommunication companies, this amounts to a 32.57 per cent increase from the N1.95 trillion both telcos recorded from both income sources in the corresponding period of 2022.
The increase in voice and data venue was partially driven by rising data subscriptions and the devaluation of the naira on Airtel’s part.
In the first nine months of 2022, Airtel made $1.41bn from airtime and data. When converted at the exchange rate of N461/$ which was obtained at the time, it amounted to N647.71billion.
In the same period of 2023, the company’s income from these two revenue sources amounted to $1.29 billion.
When converted at the exchange rate of N777/$ at the time, it amounted to N1.003 trillion.
On MTN’s part, increasing data revenues continue to fuel the company’s overall revenue growth. Data revenues grew by 36.36 per cent year-on-year, while voice revenues only grew by 10.64 per cent, indicating a rise in the usage of the Internet in the country.
Commenting on this growth, MTN said, “Data revenue grew by 36.4 per cent on increased usage and data conversion in new and existing base”.
The firm stated that data usage on its network grew by 29.1 per cent in the period under review.
It noted that “Data usage (GB per user) grew by 29.1 per cent to 8.6GB, and the number of smartphones on our network increased by 7.6 per cent, bringing smartphone penetration to 53.4 per cent, up 1.4pp YoY.
“Consequently, we recorded a 46.3 per cent growth in data traffic, with the 4G network accounting for 83.7 per cent of the total traffic (up 5.2pp YoY)”.
On its part, Airtel recorded an increase in data usage per customer to 5.9 GB per month. The firm highlighted, “Data revenue grew by 29.3 per cent in constant currency, driven by data customer base growth of 17.4 per cent and data ARPU growth of 12.3 per cent.
“Data usage per customer increased by 23.8 per cent to 5.9 GB per month (from 4.8 GB in the prior period). Our continued 4G network rollout has resulted in nearly 100 per cent of all our sites delivering 4G services”, it stated.
Increased Internet usage because of a rise in video streaming pushed the amount telecom consumers spent on telecom services to N3.86 trillion in 2022.
LCCI Faults FG’s $1trn GDP Projections
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said the macro-economic projections in the Federal Government’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) are not sufficient to achieve the $1 trillion economy target it set to achieve by 2029.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Yemi Cardoso, had last weekend restated the commitment of the government to realising the GDP target.
Reviewing Cardoso’s statement, the Director General, LCCI, Dr Chinyere Almona, explained that the basis for government’s projection contains some inconsistencies that will make it unachievable.
She said, “LCCI is aware of the enormous challenges and the uphill task before the CBN in ensuring macro-economic stability and restoring investors’ confidence.
“However, we note the inconsistencies between the Federal Government’s vision of achieving a $1 trillion economy in the next six years and the MTEF.
“The macro-economic projections in the MTEF state that the economy will grow by 3.76 percent 4.22 percent, and 4.78 percent in 2024, 2025, and 2026, respectively. We note that the projected growths are sub-optimal to achieve a $1trillion GDP by 2029, which implies an average growth of 21 percent over the next six years”.
Almona commended the CBN’s plan to review the minimum capital base of banks, but cautioned the apex bank to strengthen its banking supervision to avoid “too big to fail” banks.
She, however, said, “The Chamber appreciates the intellectual humility of the Governor in admitting the errors or mistakes of the past, particularly in the areas of corporate governance failures, diminished institutional autonomy of CBN, deviation from the core mandate of the bank, and unorthodox use of monetary tools and foray into fiscal activities under the cover of development finance activities.
“As we advance, we challenge the current CBN team to ensure professionalism and integrity and rebuild the trust of the general public.
“On recapitalization of banks, we commend the plan of CBN to review the minimum capital base of banks due to consistent devaluation of the Naira, which has eroded the capital base of banks, attracted significant investment into banks, as well as increased the capacity of banks to provide the required support for the economy.
“However, we caution the CBN to strengthen its banking supervision to avoid “too big to fail” banks.
“Given the sensitivity of monetary policy and price stability, we urge the CBN to ensure transparency and synergy between monetary and fiscal authorities and effectively communicate significant changes in policy direction”.
By: Corlins Walter
Firm Urges FG To Attract Foreign Investment
Multinational professional services firm, EY has advised the Federal Government to improve on its investment attractiveness as a way of building on previous year’s fortunes.
Senior Partner and Head of Markets, EY West Africa, Ashish Bakhshi, while sharing insights on a newly released report on Foreign Direct Investments for 2022, said Nigeria needed to improve on FDIs to achieve the ambitious targets it had set for itself to reduce poverty and build a sizeable middle class by 2030.
“Africa’s leaders will need to adopt pragmatism as they respond to a new geopolitical world order so that its member states can optimize the full spectrum of inbound investment opportunities, which will be essential in meeting Africa’s aspirations for a more equitable, wealthier and urbanised middle-class society”, the report read in part.
It stated further that “Last year saw Africa’s return as a top investment destination hub for global investors. The continent had struggled to attract investment since the onset of COVID-19 and took longer than other regions to recover, as a result of its delayed vaccine rollout and therefore its ability to reopen its 54 national economies.
“To this, its growth lagged pre-pandemic levels for longer than it did in mature markets, setting back the ambitious targets it had set for itself to reduce poverty and build a sizeable middle class by 2030.
“The new report, released by EY, a global multinational professional services firm, uncovered that FDI attracted more than 730 projects across the continent in 2022, injecting $194 billion in capital and creating 154,000 jobs.
“Significantly, Egypt saw a record of $ 107 billion in capital for its 149 FDI projects. In East Africa, Kenya dominated the FDI landscape while Nigeria was the leading country in West Africa.
“The countries came in third and fourth respectively for the largest FDI regions on the continent”.
The EY’s 13th Africa Attractiveness report tagged “A Pivot to Growth”, provides insights into the continent FDI, exposing that the 2022 calendar year saw a strong FDI rebound, led by Renewables inflows, with the West being the largest investor, while the North and Southern hubs of Africa were key beneficiaries.
A notable highlight of the report shows that CleanTech became the largest FDI recipient sector in 2022, leading Africa’s FDI for the first time.