Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has called upon South East governors to raise revenue and reduce borrowing to revive the economy of the South East region.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that she gave this advice during her keynote address at the South East Summit on Security and Economy, which commenced in Owerri on Thursday.
The summit, themed “South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset,” aims to revitalize the South East Region. The five South East governors, religious, cultural and traditional leaders attended the summit.
Okonjo-Iweala’s strategic recommendations for Southeast East’s economic growth
Okonjo-Iweala emphasized the region’s need to increase its internally generated revenue, reduce borrowing, and enhance capital expenditure.
She urged governors, state legislators, and local government chairs to assess the judiciousness, transparency, and efficiency of their budget allocations.
- In her words: “Governors, state legislatures and local government chairs must continuously ask themselves, are we using our FAC allocation wisely, transparently and effectively?
- “Can we generate more revenue internally and how do we do it, while motivating our productive sectors and factors?
- “Are we taking on too much debt? Are we even spending the amount borrowed effectively?”
Furthermore, Okonjo-Iweala suggested that the region exploit the opportunity presented by the exploitation of the electricity sector to explore solar and gas solutions to improve power supply.
She proposed the establishment of a South-East investment forum, primarily for Igbo businesspeople, to address impediments to investment in the region.
What she said:
- “I want to suggest that we convene a South-East investment forum, not for people from outside the region or abroad but for our own Igbo businesspeople.
- “In this forum, we should examine what is blocking greater investment in the South-East region and what we can do to block these leakages.”
Diversification and attracting investments in pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, labour-intensive industries, and digital technology were also recommended by the WTO D-G.
She highlighted the advantages of digital trade for micro, small, and medium enterprises, as well as online education, health, and accounting services.
Okonjo-Iweala encouraged the region to tap into its diaspora resources to bolster the healthcare sector. She suggested the issuance of a South-East diaspora bond or fund to secure loans for development priorities.
- “I am sure the South-East governors, coming together, can do some financial engineering and find a way to float a South-East diaspora bond or fund to capture some loans and tenured to financing some development priorities,” she said.
Anyim Pius Anyim’s call for realigning development priorities in the Southeast region
Anyim Pius Anyim, the former Senate President and Chairman of the summit emphasized that the event aimed to send a clear message to the diaspora and Nigerians about the region’s commitment to contributing to national consensus on equity, peace, and development.
- In his words, “We are here to send a clear message to our people at home and abroad, and our fellow Nigerians that the Igbo nation strives to become more coercive in order to be more effective in contributing its quota in the search for national consensus on equity, peace and development.”
Anyim clarified that the summit’s purpose was not to issue directives to governors but to establish a platform for the exchange of innovative ideas and fostering mutual understanding in areas of cooperation and integration.
He, however, noted that since 1999, there has been a shift in government priorities. He pointed out that none of the governments in the South East region have deemed it necessary to invest in the development of industrial corridors and actively attract investors to establish factories.
- “The implication is that the unemployment rate had multiplied and could be the reason for the upsurge of crime and criminality in the zone.
- “We need to rethink our developmental priorities,” he said while calling for the re-engineering of the entrepreneurship sector and realignment of the educational system with the regional needs,” he added.