By Femi Atanda
Against the backdrop of prevailing global economic slowdown occasioned by the volatile oil market, Nigeria and states in particular, are now being mindful of economic uncertainty in the country. For instance, this is the fourth successive year in which reserves have declined, despite seasonal fall off in merchandise import in the immediate run-up to the holiday season, even though, national currency has appreciated.
As governors get busy with the onerous task of states’ building, it is becoming instructive for them to be mindful of the present economic realities and focus more on creating new jobs; make their state self-sufficient in food production and join the crusade for fiscal discipline and prudent economic management. This is expected to be achieved through a combination of aggressive internal revenue generation and provision of necessary infrastructure for a private-sector led economic growth.
Economic observers believe budget at states level should accord priority to security, infrastructure, food sufficiency and human development. There should be a push in the right direction for these sectors, based on well thought-out and articulated development policies to galvanise the attainment of resounding success in these areas.
Pundits believe that the transformation agenda of the federal government will get the much needed fillip at the second tier of governance if states promote inclusive growth, anchored on formulating and implementing policies that would improve the well-being of the masses in their short, medium to long term plans especially the budget.
Since he came into power, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed has been canvassing economic growth, jobs creation and wealth generation for the people of Kwara State. As a caring leader, sensitive to the expectations of his people, Governor Ahmed has geared up specific efforts on public infrastructure, especially power supply in tandem with federal government’s strategy, agriculture, public transportation, education and health services, among others.
Little wonder recently when he met with the state’s lawmakers to present his budget for 2013, the governor anchored the framework on sustainable wealth generation. Dubbed Budget of Sustained Prosperity, the proposal essentially entails the roadmap to boost social infrastructure; accelerate agro-led wealth creation, provide job opportunities and generate cross-sector growth through a systematic focus on interlinked priority areas. The budget proposal leveraged on areas of strength, strategic planning and implementation of people-focused programmes.
According to him, the state’s 2013 budget is underpinned by the objectives of; prudent management of available resources for sustained economic development and growth; implementation of viable initiatives capable of generating employment, wealth creation and fresh investments; intensification of internal revenue drive and improvement in the efficiency of revenue collection and execution of infrastructure projects.
In this recent presentation to the state House of Assembly, Ahmed said total projected recurrent revenue for 2013 is N58billion, while recurrent expenditure is N51.7billion respectively. Out of the sum road development is to gulp N7.9billion, water supply, N1.9bilion, education and human capital development, N7.6billion, tertiary education, science and technology, N4.3billion, health N3billion, agriculture development, N4.3billion among others.
“The policy thrust of this administration in the agriculture sub sector is to facilitate greater participation of private investors in commercial farming and agro-allied industrial businesses. In line with this, the state government has put a number of measures in place to sustain the current tempo of increased food production in the state, and position commercial agriculture as a tool for employment and wealth creation” he said.
During the 2013 financial year, the governor announced that efforts would be made to develop Grazing Reserves in strategic locations and provide other incentives that would stop the incessant crises and clashes between crop farmers and herdsmen. Rice production, he disclosed, would be beefed up through N1.5billion investment in the public private partnership collaboration in rice project. In addition, the world-standard cargo terminal complex with Apron and Taxi way would be completed.
Governor Ahmed equally underscored city beautification project in 2013 with plans to cover four additional routes namely; Geri Alimi roundabout to Eiyenkorin, Gaa Akanbi Junction to Michael Imoudu, Offa Garage Roundabout to Asa Dam road, Ministry of Agriculture roundabout to Fate/Basin Roundabout, among others.
“In 2013, we shall focus on the development of the greater Ilorin Master Plan to ensure that development and expansion of the capital city in the future is carefully controlled,” he noted, saying that government would embark on neighborhood upgrading towards slum reduction and control of haphazard development.
Two billion naira, according to the governor would be spent on on-going projects, even as road rehabilitation, maintenance and reconstruction are to get facelift in line with his administration slogan of “operation No Pothole”.
Speaking on the implementation of 2012 Budget, Governor Ahmed disclosed to the legislators that his government ensured the disbursement of N1billion to farmers under the commercial agriculture credit scheme to boost farmers’ productivity and production capacity, adding “in line with our determination to build an agro-led economy government partnered Cornel University, New York for the Kwara State Agricultural Modernisation Master plan, thus becoming the first sub-national body in the world to do so”. The Master plan contains a five year road-map for evolving research based, agro-led economic growth, and creation of food security and thus made Kwara the hub for agriculture in the sub-region.
It will be recalled that Kwara State; located in the North Central, is endowed with agriculture and mineral resources, with key investment opportunities in the areas of processing of crop and livestock products, lumbering and furniture, paper production, ceramics, rubber based and agro chemicals.
A recent business environment scorecard scored Kwara State 4.7per cent on the index, while performance across the benchmark ranges from infrastructure and utilities 53.5, legal and regulatory service, 44.1 per cent and business support and investment promotion at 4.5 percent.
Kwara has incentives for both local and foreign investors in the area of tourism, commerce and industry aimed at expanding the industrial and commercial sectors for wealth creation and employment generation.
Followers of the state are however hopeful that the framework for increased revenue generation and boosting tax compliance will be unfolded in due course of the budget breakdown.
*Atanda writes from Ilorin, Kwara State capital.