My Observations On Richard Duke’s Reply To Cross River State Scandalous Debt Burden: What Would Senator Prince Otu Do Differently? BY AGBA JALINGO

In Breaking News, Business & Economy, Opinion

 

  1. Debt Management Strategy: 

Senator Prince Otu should develop a comprehensive debt management strategy that focuses on reducing the debt burden over time. This strategy could include measures such as debt restructuring, renegotiating loan terms, and exploring options for refinancing at lower interest rates. It is important to prioritize debt repayment while ensuring the sustainability of essential services and infrastructure development.

My observation: I agree that your first suggestion here is the basic approach any governor should embrace. However, it should be noted that the approach is not new. When Governor Imoke took over from Duke, he floated a 40 Billion Naira bond in 2014 to recapitalize subsisting debts and renegotiated most of the loans with lower interest rates and longer payment periods in an attempt to free up the State from debt accruals from 2002. He claimed to have also repaid several billion in successive budgets. Governor Ayade also claims to have repaid N129 Billion and has also made several efforts to renegotiate our debts. But all these efforts haven’t given us substantial mileage. So beyond the usual, what are the more favorable terms or conditions the experts should be negotiating for in subsequent deals? What specifics should the next set of experts and negotiators be asking for in the best interest of our State that the previous ones did not?

  1. Economic Diversification:

To enhance the state’s revenue base, Senator Prince Otu could consider diversifying the economy beyond its current sources of income. This may involve identifying and supporting sectors with growth potential, such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, or technology. Promoting investments in these sectors can stimulate economic growth, and job creation, and generate additional tax revenue.

My observation: I also agree that Technology, Agriculture, and Tourism have the capacity to explode our revenue base and employment if pursued diligently. In fact, there are so many Cross River programmers who have developed functional social enterprise apps and bots that, if supported, can partner with the government to create chains of massive revenue. A utilization strategy can also be considered for the many non-functional industries that the current administration is leaving behind. If they can be made to function, they hold a lot of revenue potential too for the State.

  1. Efficient Taxation:

While the article expresses concerns about increasing taxes, it is worth noting that a well-designed and fair tax system in Cross River State can massively contribute to revenue generation.

Senator Prince Otu’s government should focus on improving tax compliance and broadening the tax base to reduce the burden on a few individuals or businesses. By implementing measures to combat tax evasion and ensuring transparency in tax collection the Governor-elect can help optimize revenue collection without unduly burdening the population.

My observation: I will continue to object to any policy that will increase taxes majorly because the quality of life and income hasn’t improved. But I agree totally with tax compliance and getting more people into the tax net who aren’t captured presently. Technology should also be deliberately and vigorously employed in the revenue drive to reduce human contact and optimize the figures.

  1. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs):

Engaging in strategic partnerships with investors and the private sector can be an effective way to address infrastructure needs and promote economic growth. Senator Prince Otu could explore opportunities for PPPs (no more MOUs), attracting private investment for the development of critical infrastructure projects. This approach can help reduce the burden on the state’s finances while fostering economic development.

My observation: Perfect suggestion in number 4 there. PPPs will pay us better than MOUs. It will bring in more private capital.

  1. Cost Reduction and Efficiency Measures: 

Senator Prince Otu should prioritize fiscal discipline and explore opportunities for cost reduction within the government’s operations. This could involve conducting thorough audits to identify inefficiencies, streamlining government processes, and eliminating wasteful spending. By optimizing resource allocation, the state can redirect funds toward debt repayment and essential services.

It is essential for Senator Prince Otu and his administration to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state’s financial situation, engage with experts, and develop a well-informed and evidence-based strategy to address the debt burden. 

By implementing a combination of prudent debt management, revenue enhancement, and cost reduction measures, there is potential to improve the financial stability of Cross River State as Senator Prince Otu takes over and ensures sustainable development for its citizens.

 My observation: I agree completely with your number five suggestion that the government has to cut costs from non-essentials to fund essentials by prioritizing resource allocation. The incoming Governor really has a lot of overhead expenses that he will have to cut down to save costs. For instance, the controversial expenditure on the office of the Chief of Staff, an office that is neither created nor recognized by the Constitution. In 2022, the office of the Chief of Staff in Cross River recorded an overhead expenditure of N2.6 billion. This expenditure besides being the highest of the N6.62 billion overhead spent on 260 offices of the State, the spending is 39.4 percent of the total actual overhead disbursement. The top overhead provisions in this office were basically local and international travel- N620 million, vehicle maintenance service – N623.3 million, other services – N912 million, and miscellaneous expenses – N450 million. (Whatever miscellaneous means.) This and many more of such expenses which have actually become slush funds for government officials, can be substantially cut down to ease resources for other purposes.

Thank you Richard Duke for this robust engagement. I am sure some other concerned Cross Riverians will also add their voices and may those who need the ideas use them well for the best of our State.

Asé.

Citizen Agba Jalingo is the Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, a Cross Riverian, and writes from Lagos.

NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.

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