Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) –By Sam Ijeh —
The global economic recession is seriously affecting positive developments, not just in all tiers of governments, but in individual families world wide.
For Nigeria, the end of the economic slide might not just be in sight as a result of the continuous tumbling of the value of the Naira.
However, as far as the populace is concerned, what is uppermost in their minds is for the government in power to make basic infrastructure available to them to enable them live better lifes irrespective of the prevailing economic realities.
Revenue accruing to states and local governments are now nothing to write home about as it can not even be enough to pay the salaries of civil servants not to talk of paying pensions to retirees.
This has also affected the development of basic infrastructure in various sectors of the economy as solid financial base is very key in embarking on such ventures.
In Delta State, the effect of the prevailing economic downturn has made the government under the able watch of the governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, to begin to look for alternative ways of making the state an investors haven.
A large chunk of the monthly revenue from the Federal Government is used to pay debts accumulated before the coming into power of the present administration.
Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has equally dropped to an all time low as many corporate bodies have left the state as a result of the activities of militants who have made their operational bases unhabitable for them.
Despite all these, the government of Senator Okowa have been able to construct and commission several roads spread across the three senatorial districts of the state within one year of his being in office.
With some of his wishes for the state still unaccomplished, Senator Okowa has boldly decided to look for alternative ways of wooing investors to boost the economy of the state.
As part of activities to mark the 25 years anniversary of the state, the government packaged a two-day Economic and Investment Summit at the Event Centre in Asaba, the state capital.
At the end of the brain-storming sessions that featured the economic egg heads of the nation, lots of investment possibilities that abound in the state were made known to investor within and outside the country.
Exactly two weeks after this, precisely on Saturday, September 10, 2016, the governor delivered a lecture titled “PUBLIC POLICY & GOVERNANCE IN DELTA STATE: OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES” at the ‘Dialogue with Public Policy Makers’ programme organized by the Lagos Business School and Nigerian Economic Summit Group held at Oriental Hotel, Lagos.
Senator Okowa, at the event, assured local and international investors of high return on investment when they tap into the rich business opportunities that abound in the state.
The Governor, accompanied by top government functionaries, said “with what we are doing in partnership with the Federal Government and Community leaders, peace is gradually returning to the troubled Niger Delta region and I can assure our prospective investors that we are going to have a lasting and sustainable peace in the region and that a conducive atmosphere awaits prospective investors. There are a lot of business opportunities for investors”
He noted that the private sector has a lot to offer and is pivotal to the state’s investment drive which seeks to significantly develop the non-oil sectors of the economy such that they will overtake oil and gas as growth drivers.
Governor Okowa disclosed that his administration’s vision is to make Delta State the pacesetter in the country by building an enduring legacy of wealth and prosperity for all through public policy imperatives geared at maximising comparative advantages of the State, developing the non-oil sectors of the economy, creating jobs, and accelerating infrastructural development.
“Delta State has an economy size of $24.6b based on GDP rebase of 2013, making us the fourth largest economy in the country with multiple urban centres, numbering as many as twelve,” he said, adding, “Average poverty rate based on head count is 56%, lower than the national average of 62%; the per capita income is calculated at about N302 or less than USD2.00 per day while unemployment/underemployment rate stood at 27.2 per cent in 2014 according to the National Bureau of Statistics.”, Senator Okowa said.
“In a bid to address the challenges posed by the drop in statutory allocation, the state government developed the Delta State Medium Term Development Plan (DSMTDP) (2016-2019), a policy document that provides the road map to: Drive rapid infrastructural development; ensure and sustain inclusive economic growth and sustainable development; reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment, pervasive poverty; and woo the private sector to explore and exploit the economic and business opportunities in Delta State., he said, adding with glee that the state’s PPP model is already yielding results with agreements already signed for the Delta Commercial City Project, Umunede Rest Park, Asaba Integrated Power Project, Warri-Effurun Water Scheme, Agro-Industrial Parks and Housing Projects in the state.
Earlier in a welcome remarks, Dr Chris Ogbechie , who represented the Dean, Lagos Business School, said the school in partnership with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group has a proven track record of engagement with Public Sector Policy Makers in proffering solutions to developmental challenges in a growing economy like Nigeria.
Mrs. Sola David-Borha, Vice Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), gave the closing remarks and vote of thanks at the occasion anchored by Prof Wale Ajai.
A day before this event, Governor Okowa also attended a Business Dinner in Lagos hosted by renowned economist and eminent Deltan, Prof Pat Utomi, where he said that his administration would support investments in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors in the state.
The governor said as the state moves to reduce its dependence on crude oil, his administration would strengthen the enabling environment for investments to thrive in the agriculture and other sectors.
While commending the international community for their support in attracting investments to the state, he assured that the Asaba Airport upgrade would be ready in December to accommodate bigger aircrafts and also attract more airlines into the state.
In his remark, Prof Pat Utomi said there were lots of untapped potentials in Delta State describing the state as the next business destination and urged the international community to consider the numerous business opportunities in the state.
The business dinner was attended by German Consul General, Mr Ingo Herbert, British Deputy High Commissioner, Ahmed Bashir, South African Consul-General in Lagos, Darkey Ephraim Africa, United States Consular for Commercial Services, UBA Plc Chairman, Mr. Tony Elumelu, Managing Director of UBA Plc, Mr Kennedy Uzoka, MD of RainOil, Mr Gabriel Ogbechie, Mr Henry Okolo and some members of the Delta State Executive Council.
These efforts by the state governor are meant to share business ideas for stronger economic base and launch the state into rapid economic development.
With all these in place, the state government can now focus on its targets to grow the state economy by at least 5% annually, create 50,000 jobs annually up to 2019, increase house hold incomes by 5% annually, reduce unemployment by 5% annually and reduce overall poverty by 5% annually.
The state also aims to reduce the population of Deltans living below the poverty line by 5% annually, ensure that at least 30% of Deltans have access to health insurance scheme by 2017, achieve a more significant level of debt sustainability by 2019, establish a strong safety net for the vulnerable by 2019 and significantly raise public confidence level in governance in Delta State in 2019.
*Sam Ijeh is the Media Assistant to the Delta State Commissioner for Information.
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